REVIEW: Art and Craft

3 11 2014

Art and Craft“Who’s the master, the painter – or the forger?”  Such was the question posed by Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld in last year’s “American Hustle.”  A similar spirit of giving credit to those who can imitate as well as an artist can create forms the backbone of “Art and Craft,” a kooky documentary about one eccentric oddball.

The film follows Mark Landis, a truly gifted art forger whose counterfeit works fooled a number of galleries across the country.  He has no real malicious intent, nor does he intend to profit from selling the paintings.  In fact, Landis technically does not even engage in criminal behavior since he donates the works to museum as a gift.

The mysterious Landis, who speaks in a soft and nonthreatening murmur, provides quite an unusual yet fascinating subject for a documentary.  He’s a curious fellow, one that “Art and Craft” takes a good chunk of time to explore.  The film quickly moves beyond his schizophrenia and really tries to understand why he acts the way he does.  The directors make the key discovery that he views himself as an actor in a role, which might allow him to dismiss the moral consequences of his actions.

Surprisingly, though, Landis does not view himself as an artist.  All the curators who accepted his bogus pieces ought to be embarrassed to see that the man who bamboozled them is no scholar of the form.  In fact, Landis freely admits to having no knowledge of the tools or techniques used to create the originals that he rips off!

“Art and Craft” feels like the kind of human interest piece that would grab attention on a news magazine program and leave viewers craving a little bit more than just the few minutes of the segment.  The feature-length documentary provides plenty of additional information, which is fascinating to an extent.  The law of diminishing returns does kick in after a while, though, as additional insight adds marginal value to the piece.  Still, it’s a fun and worthwhile documentary, albeit one that might have been best realized as a short subject.  B2halfstars

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