2017, Music

Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World (2017, Barry Avrich)

This is an engaging, thought-provoking documentary about the state of the art world in the 21st century (especially post Great Recession) that is perhaps a little too hyper-stylized for its own good.

The documentary is a portrait of a time and place more than it is about a specific issue in the art world. (Well, it’s about the corrupting influence of money in the art world, primarily, but it’s more about the systemic issues in the art world in addition to money’s role.) And though the portrait is somewhat one-side – ” too much money in the art world = bad” – it is more nuanced than it could be. Many of the talking heads have really interesting things to say and there are some laugh-out-loud quips about the super-rich and the artists who deliberately make art for the super-rich. All of this is informative and entertaining.

But I have a few quibbles:

  • The documentary is needlessly episodic: It is divided into “lots” – see what they did there? – and the theme of the lots flies off the rails in the final parts as the last two lots are general theses about the art world rather than aspects of the art world. If you’re going to commit to the concept, commit to the concept.
  • It’s a little ADD: There are so many music cues (and the odd associated montage) in this film, including some of which play during the interviews! I don’t know who they thought the audience was, but I’m pretty sure we can all pay attention to interesting, well-edited interviews without some generic electronic music playing in the background. The filmmakers treat the film as if it’s a basketball game for documentary fans. It’s a little annoying.
  • For its run-time, there is a little too much use of montage: This is associated with the above problem (as the montages are accompanied by some of the cues.) I’m not really sure what happened here, because the interviews they got are quite good. Did they run out of all their good footage and need to pad it out? Do they just like this style?

Those quibbles aside, the film is both thought-provoking and entertaining, which isn’t always the case with these types of movies.


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