Magazine article Variety

Artistic Impressions

Magazine article Variety

Artistic Impressions

Article excerpt

While political and ecothemed documentaries are once again prevalent at Sundance, portrait docus dominate this year's nonfiction lineup.

Kurt Cobain, Barry Crimmins, Marlon Brando, Tig Notaro, Robert "Evel" Knievel, Warren Jeffs and Nina Simone are among the many famous and infamous figures being explored by Sundance veteran directors including Bobcat Goldthwait, Amy Berg, Liz Garbus and Brett Morgen.

Like last year's Sundance hit "Life Itself" (one of 15 docs on the Oscar shortlist) this year's crop of profile-driven pics veer away from the standard chronological bio doc and delve into lives using impressionistic techniques.

In assembling HBO's "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," director Morgen used new and previously unseen archival footage - including Cobain's Super-8 movies, his spoken word poetry and autobiography, his sculptures, his photography and his sound design pieces - to reveal a more "humanistic portrait" of Cobain.

The overarching goal of the doc, Morgen told Variety in November, "is to really challenge the existing mythologies surrounding Kurt."

In "Listen to Me Marlon," director Stevan Riley also tackles a well-known figure by using new and previously unseen footage. Riley, who talked with Marlon Brando's friends, family and colleagues prior to production, ultimately decided to keep those voices out of the film.

"Talking heads can end up being a bit tired, and invariably introduce a degree of distance and separation between the audience and the subject as there is one more level of interpretation to contend with," the helmer says. …

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