A completely absorbing, starkly powerful film, Matthew Akers' Marina Abramović The Artist is Present documents an amazing performance that is deceptively simple yet clearly the work of a master artist.
It made me want to strip naked and stare into a mirror.
As our own Christopher Bourne explained in his review, published in June 2012:
Far from being a mere document, Marina Abramović The Artist Is Present, Matthew Akers's film about "the grandmother of performance art" Marina Abramović's massively popular (750,000 visitors) 2010 Museum of Modern Art retrospective, is itself a moving work of art, visually and emotionally powerful. The documentary gives us a crash course on Abramović's pioneering work and details her extensive preparations for the show which, among other purposes, was intended to once and for all assert performance art's proper place as a legitimate and respected art form alongside painting, sculpture, photography, and video art. Abramović at one point remarks that at this late date, she is no longer asked the rather insulting question, "But why is this art?" as much as she used to be. However, she still feels that performance art is still often relegated to the fringes of the art world, and regarded as "alternative." "I'm 63! I don't want to be alternative anymore!" she laments.
Christopher concludes his excellent review:
Matthew Akers has created a rather extraordinary work in his own right with Marina Abramović The Artist Is Present. He combines archival material, behind the scenes preparation, and footage of the show itself with breathtaking visual acuity, thorough analysis, and an artistry that nearly equals that of its subject. Unlike many other artist documentaries, this isn't simply a derivative by-product of an artist's life or a museum show. It stands on its own as a monumental work, and almost defies the term "documentary" to describe it. The film doesn't simply record; it draws inspiration from the work that engendered its existence, and communicates its own unique vision to us of the power of great art to move people and transform lives.
You can read the comprehensive review in its entirety right here at ScreenAnarchy. I have nothing more to add to Christopher's review, other than to say the film accumulates power as it goes along, especially after the artist's life story -- the bio-pic portion -- is completed and we get to the epic performance itself. It really is remarkable and personally affecting, making one stop to consider how little time in daily life is set aside for contemplation and deep thought. Kudos to Mr. Akers for capturing that.
The Region 1 DVD from Music Box Films is an excellent representation of the DVD. Picture-wise, it is as flawless as you would expect from a high-definition source. Likewise, the soundtrack is reproduced in fine manner.
The special features include a good selection of footage not in the film, with my favorites being "Belgrade Homecoming," in which the artist not only visits her hometown, but also learns something new about her mother, and "A Re-Performer's Story," in which the youngest participant in the exhibit goes home and explains how the show is a turning point in her life.
The film is highly recommended. You can pre-order the DVD via our affiliate link to Amazon, below, which brings a few pennies to us. The official release date is Tuesday, October 16.