William Eggleston in the Real World

Film, Documentaries
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Time Out says

The ICA screens this intimate and very welcome documentary on William Eggleston as part of a season of films and discussions to celebrate the American photographer’s groundbreaking work over the past four decades. Famously, Eggleston has embraced not only colour but the common-place: everyday objects, people and places – lightbulbs, toys, empty streets, cars, dogs, kids. It’s the art of the era of the instant-camera (his 1976 MoMA show was defined as ‘perfectly boring’ by one critic and sent Ansel Adams into a rage).

At the start of a restrained and informative voiceover, director Michael Almereyda describes his own approach to documentary as ‘silent, patient and watchful’, like photography itself. It’s a fair self-assessment and one that works well for such a modest and reticent subject as Eggleston. Almereyda follows the photographer and his son/assistant, Winston as they carry out a commission from Gus van Sant to document the filmmaker’s hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky. The camera follows as Eggleston takes interest in a shop window or a restaurant sign or a street corner. Later, we watch Eggleston as he spends an evening with his friend, Leigh Haizlip, a charismatic neurotic who sits in her pyjamas and predicts her own death while Eggleston quietly draws next to her, occasionally commenting or admonishing her. We watch an evening conversation (filmed in night-vision) between Eggleston and his wife, during which the photographer briefly plays the piano. We see him quietly collect a major award in New York City.

Quietness defines Eggleston; he doesn’t like to discuss his work. When Almereyda sits him down for an interview he says only that you can love and appreciate art, ‘but you can’t talk about it, it doesn’t make any sense’. He appears most moved, most open when listening to the music that he loves, such as Roy Orbison performing the love song from which this film takes its name. This is a rare and revealing portrait of an artist.

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Details

Release details

Release date:
Friday November 18 2005
Duration:
86 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Michael Almereyda