Victor Kanefsky’s Art Bastard asks broad questions about the relationship between art and politics. Its subject, American artist Robert Cenedella, serves a micro-answer to some of these broad questions. Although Kanefsky is successful in arguing for Cenedella’s work as critical satirical representations of U.S. political culture, the film lacks energy.
A distinct absence of aesthetic creativity is recurrent throughout Art Bastard, especially after a reasonably creative credit sequence that superimposes the crews’ names on New York subway iconography. The documentary consists largely of talking head interviews (some of them are poorly framed) that tend to focus on Cenedella’s personal (familial) life and personal and collegial interpretations of his work. Impressively didactic at-times, Kanefsky’s film seems more conducive to pedagogical screenings in classrooms or art galleries. Instead of making a compelling film, Kanefsky has produced some interesting but misappropriated art criticism.
Cenedella’s brilliance as a satirical artist is not in question, and Kanefsky convincingly argues for a reverence of his work. But his approach feels insular and personal at the expense of making a more accessible, more watchable documentary.
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