Alice Neel DVD Review

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This documentary by the artist’s grandson Andrew Neel, delves into the life and imagination of Alice Neel, the defiant pioneering, cutting edge, raunchy and prolific late artist. The examination of the mid-20th century political radical and early feminist distills both the volatile social times that defined her humanistic portraiture, and the suffering she endured as a struggling single mother of four children.

For Neel, it was an uncompromising mission to penetrate so far into the souls of her human subjects for inspiration, that she often lost sight of herself as an individual. This was an unfortunate vulnerability which led to her sexual exploitation and abuse by men.

In that regard, it was observed that Neel while ascending to the heights of brilliant artistic expression, created enormous depths of suffering for both herself and her two remaining children after one died and the other was spirited away by the child’s father. In the film, that unrelieved sorrow over the loss of two children, is traced in her symbolic artwork, and also recollected as leading to her mental breakdown and hospitalization.

Alice Neel: A Documentary is hampered by some limitations – especially political oversights concerning her activism – due to the subjectivity of a biographical examination by one’s own relative, her grandson. On the other hand, the film is imbued with an informal and extensively versed intimacy, that only family ties would have been able to forge such an organic connection spanning so many decades.

Arts Alliance America

Unrated

3 stars

DVD Features: Standard Edition; Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.