According to a colleague, Susan Sontag once boasted to having seen Sátántangó more than a half dozen times, and in Katharina Ott-Bernstein’s documentary tribute to the life and work of avant-garde theater director and designer Robert Wilson, Sontag, in one of her last interviews, admits to having seen Deafman more than 12 times and Einstein on the Beach, Wilson’s famous collaboration with Philip Glass, on 40 different occasions. For anyone unfamiliar with Wilson’s work, Sontag’s hyperbole may be a sign of what you’re in for: rhythmic deconstructions of language, history, cultural and familial institutions and rites, and other texts via a strikingly minimalist aesthetic. For the Wilson newbie, this puff piece will suffice as an introduction, mixing as it does anecdotal talking-heads interviews from the likes of Sontag, Glass, David Byrne, and Wilson’s stock company of artists and actors from the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds with rare footage of the man’s work through the years. Ott-Bernstein’s vision won’t earn her comparisons to Wilson, but the worst of it is a series of cloying juxtapositions that stress how events from the artist’s life would go on to shape his art. Wilson remains a cipher, but the director allows the man’s humanist spirit to shine through via reminiscences of his touching relationships to Raymond Andrews and Christopher Knowles and how one’s deaf-muteness and the other’s autism changed the way Wilson looked at the world and, in turn, audiences looked at Wilson’s art.
- New Yorker Films
- 110 min
- Katharina Ott-Bernstein
- Robert Wilson, Philip Glass, Tom Waits, David Byrne, Jessye Norman, John Rockwell, John Simon, Suzanne Wilson, Susan Sontag
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