Opening 8 Sep 2011
The film opens with a tied shot of artist Gerhard Richter, one of the most prolific contemporary artists, setting up camera in his light-flooded, orderly, white studio. On the walls there are two large white canvases that build the framework for Corinna Betz’s documentary. The film follows their metamorphosis from the first brush stroke through layer after layer of repainting to their public showing at Marian Godman Gallery in New York. “Painting is a secretive act in the studio,” says Richter and remarks at some point in the film that painting under observation is worse than being in a clinic. For the past fifteen years the artist shied away from any film projects. That Richter allowed filmmaker Corinna Betz to squire him from April to September in 2009 is a stroke of luck for anyone who is interested in the creative process. We witness how Richter goes through a process of doubt and self-assertion to bring his paintings to life. Not only do we see, but also hear how Richter works, the sound of heavy color application, and the dragging sound of the large-scale squeegee being hauled across the canvas amplifying the physical ease and strain.
We watch Gerhard Richter contemplating, thinking and rethinking each stroke. At an early stage he looks at the canvases: “Hard to say. They could be better.” Later, after many more layers, he remarks humorously, “They are gray now, but were meant to be colorful, the paintings just do what they want.” All in all Corinna Betz and her crew accompanied Gerhard Richter for three years and amended biographical materials with film clips from black and white documentaries from the ‘60s. The most intriguing components of this intimate and informative documentary are the, if anything unexpected, conversations between Corinna Betz and Gerhard Richter in which he talks about his art and life with great honesty. (Ulrike Henn)