Filmed entirely through the lens of art critic Paul H-O’s video camera, Guest of Cindy Sherman unveils the Soho-centric artworld of the 90s in all of its conceit. Amateur camera pans follow Paul and his “GalleryBeat” crew as they are shut out of openings, banned from entering DIA, and berated by Julian Schnabel for creating what he deems an idiotic show.
But a funny thing happens on the way to god-knows-where: the camera finds its focus. We witness as our humble cameraman collides with art star extraordinaire Cindy Sherman, resulting in a five year affaire de Coeur. Yet despite H-O’s unprecedented access to Sherman’s world, and an impressive breadth of footage, the star remains enigmatic. Interviews with a sprinkling of top entertainers — including Eli Broad, Eric Bogosian, Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith, Danny DeVito, Carol Kane, Christine Vachon, Ingrid Sishy, and Molly Ringwald — serve only to amplify Sherman’s celebrity and increase the viewer’s distance from her. Co-director Tom Donahue explicates: “We wanted to keep a bit of that Citizen Kane quality, to make a film that explores somebody — but you actually have no idea who that person is.”
More than anything, we enter the life of Sherman’s “plus one”. As Paul settles into a life of second best, his camera turns from the artist, once subject, to the self — a depressed, engulfed, failed artist… and man. Issues of gender factor prominently as he struggles with an existence in the background and an acute awareness that the life he leads is “Cindy World”. Near the film’s end, he complains of “now understanding the feelings of an ignored wife”. With a lost relationship and countless reels of film, Paul finally created a lasting contribution to the art world. As we witness him pump air into a blow-up mattress in his tiny apartment, one question begs to be reconciled: how can a successful woman enjoy love from an unthreatened man?
Opens March 27