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RICHARD AVEDON: DARKNESS AND LIGHT

USA, 1995 (MIFF 1996, Documenta)

Director: Helen C Whitney

Using a major Avedon retrospective as a loose framing device, Helen Whitney's documentary is for admirers, a long overdue appraisal of almost fifty years of superb photo­graphy and, for initiates, a comprehensive introduction to one of the century's most innovative and influential artists in the fields of fashion, advertising and portraiture.

Along with Horst, Beaton. Hurrell and Scavullo. Avedon has been responsible for some of the most striking and instantly identifiable images of the last fifty years. For decades the principle lensman for Vogue, he was one of the first to break out of the confines of what was perceived as mere fashion ephemera and, in the process, raise the profile of fashion and advertising photography to the level of art. As Avedon says, "To be a photographer, you have to nurture the things that most people discard ".

Among the film's many highlights are his recollections of working at Vogue with the near legendary eccentric Diana Vreeland, photo­graphing Charlie Chaplin on the eve of his exile from Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe revealing her true self stripped of all persona and the story behind the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Avedon's work has not been without detractors and controversy as the polyphonic chorus on the soundtrack constantly reminds us The film's feature length, revealing interviews with Avedon on his working methods and a plethora of celebrities giving their own take on his achievements make this an exhaustive overview of the man and above all his work. (GH)

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