It seems like we all know Annie Leibovitz, we've seen her photographs everywhere, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue, seemingly everywhere. This film is a wonderful documentary that shows an unknown side of this famous photographer.
This is a simply made, elegant film. It feels a lot like we simply spent an hour and twenty-seven minutes listening to her recount her life. The film rolls full circle, from her early days taking pictures of her family, through the incredible luck getting a job at Rolling Stone during it's first years of publication, through the diva-like celebrity photographs, back to her love of photographing her family. The film ends where her latest book starts, Pilgrimage, (Pilgrimage) a book of family trip photographs. It is remarkable that a film from 2008 would predict the wonderful current work.
I didn't know a lot about Annie Leibovitz, but yet I knew a lot. We all know a lot about her - at least through the thousands of photographs she has published. Barbara Leibovitz, Annie's sister, does a remarkable job directing this film. Much like her photographs, the film is a little bit posed and a little bit raw. The film was edited very carefully, and does present Annie in the best possible light. The film was delicate about the Rolling Stones tour and her drug use during the early years of her career at Rolling Stone Magazine.
The core film was originally aired on PBS, so the film is PG. The DVD includes a massive set of bonus features - slightly more raw, somewhat uncut, interviews with many of the subjects of the film. There appears to be a bit more honesty in these interviews. Sadly, the bonus features get really long in the tooth. The film is gem of the DVD.
I am a photographer. This is an inspirational film. I was struck by her comment that she had to study dance photographs to understand how to photograph dance. I've had to learn how to photograph different sports, each time it takes me time to understand the flow of the game, the best angles to capture the right moment, where to stand, how to move, which lenses to use, and what is the best light. Football is completely different from baseball or golf. I never realized that photographing people is exactly the same work. She learned how to photograph rock stars - she lived the life and captured the moments. But as she moved to posed photography, Vanity Fair, she had to learn a whole new world. The work required is completely different. I was also struck by her big moment meeting a photo editor. I was so happy to hear that she struggles with editing her own work.
This is a beautiful film that places Annie in a favorable light. The film shows some of the most iconic photographs ever, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Patti Smith, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. I enjoyed this film very much.
The core film is about the right length at an hour twenty-seven minutes. The bonus features are talking head commentary: Photo Series (30 minutes); Process (5 minutes); Commercial Work (5 minutes); Celebrity (6 minutes); Work Ethic (7 minutes); and Fashion (2 minutes).