‘Make Me Famous’ Review – The Hollywood Reporter
There’s an amusing story in regards to the late painter Edward Brzezinski that endures though his legacy hasn’t. It was 1989, and Brzezinski arrived on the Paula Cooper Gallery in SoHo for a present. On show that night was Robert Gober’s Bag of Donuts, a easy sculpture displaying resin-covered donuts in a crinkled white paper bag. (The piece, fairly literal in its development, recollects Maurizio Cattelan’s Comic, which you would possibly bear in mind because the banana duct-taped to the wall.) Brzezinski, barely drunk and possibly even hungry, stumbles into the gallery, lifts a donut from the bag and … eats it.
The baffling act landed him within the hospital (resin is toxic) and solidified his fame as an eccentric member of New York’s artwork scene. That point interval — the ’70s and ’80s, to be actual — produced artwork world darlings who’ve since turn into family names: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Wojnarowicz, to call just some. But regardless of Brzezinski’s proximity to a few of these luminaries, he by no means managed to be one in all them — a lot to his irritation.
Make Me Well-known
The Backside Line
An uneven portrait of a sophisticated artist.
Make Me Well-known, which premiered at NewFest, is a distressing and melancholic portrait of Brzezinski, who spent his complete grownup life making an attempt to make it. Directed by Brian Vincent, the documentary situates its topic throughout the context of extra acquainted characters and tries to grasp why Brzezinski, a charmingly aloof painter, shouldn’t be readily thought of amongst this cohort. The reply to this query is much less attention-grabbing than the stunning journey it takes Vincent on.
We start in 1980 in New York with a now clichéd opening sequence of photos: deserted post-demolition tons, graffiti-strewn partitions, boarded-up home windows. Brzezinski, who grew up in Michigan, lived on East Third Avenue in a dilapidated residence that additionally occurred to be his studio and his gallery, known as The Magic Gallery. The residence, a walk-up residence, sat throughout the road from a males’s shelter, a fixture of unsettling fascination for among the interviewees within the doc who considered it as a marker of authenticity. When one unidentified speaker remarks, “The East Village was ours as a result of no person wished to reside within the East village,” I puzzled in regards to the faces of the “our” and “no person.” It was right here that Brzezinski would collect with mates and fellow artisans to drink and gossip. This appeared to be his means of looking for group, though it didn’t appear to work.
Few of the folks interviewed about Brzezinski, from artists Walter Robinson and Peter McGough to gallerists Sur Rodney Sur and Patti Astor, appeared to take him significantly and have been maybe turned off by his shameless pursuit of fame. They pepper their anecdotes with obscure adjectives, repeatedly referring to his charisma, noting that he was a “character,” or commenting on how poor he remained. In a second of pointless cruelty, McGough mocks the identify of Brzezinski’s gallery. “Ed wished it so badly, you might inform. That’s all he ever talked about, the stupidest identify you might ever identify a gallery.” When requested why she by no means confirmed Brzezinski at her gallery, Astor fumbles by a nonresponse, citing the dimensions of her gallery and different random limitations.
Nevertheless obscure and generally ungenerous, these anecdotes do reveal the parasitic nature of that artwork scene and the lengths to which artists would go to get seen. Brzezinski was sincere about his need to be well-known and earn money. He would hand out fliers for his personal upcoming exhibits at gallery openings and sometimes copy different folks’s strategies for getting their work seen. In a single amusing recollection, he advised a pal that he learn not purely for pleasure however to have subjects of dialog. Life, he appeared to intimate, was all about efficiency. But the pursuit appeared to slowly displace the work, a tragedy in and of itself. His technical abilities and craftwork come up sometimes within the doc, however they don’t appear to be the purpose.
In truth, it may at occasions be troublesome to pin down a bigger thesis for Make Me Well-known, not to mention a degree. Vincent’s movie is a trove of thrilling interviews with survivors of a harrowing interval. The onset of the AIDS disaster, which decimated lives and communities, shifted the temper of the scene. Archival footage abounds as nicely — take one attention-grabbing clip of the artwork critic Gary Indiana in Brzezinski’s gallery bemoaning Wojnarowicz, or one other of Brzezinski refusing to undersell his giant oil portray — and gives a much less parochial imaginative and prescient of that point.
With a lot data, it may be arduous to maintain up, and the movie’s construction — or lack thereof — doesn’t make it simpler. The primary half of the undertaking breathlessly divulges as a lot details about Brzezinski as potential, sketching his character by his makeshift group’s imaginative and prescient. There’s a simple tone, an uncomplicated visible fashion, and a give attention to the interviewees’ tales and concepts, which sometimes take one too many tangents. Abruptly all of it modifications, and Make Me Well-known adopts a true-crime high quality. Vincent, who has remained offscreen till this level, out of the blue takes middle stage as he tries to determine if Brzezinski, in maybe a closing try at fame, faked his personal demise. This flip is on no account unwelcome, nevertheless it’s clunky and makes watching the movie extra effortful than obligatory.