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Documentary - Annie Leibovitz - Life Through A Lens

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Annie Leibovitz - Life Through A Lens
A film by Barbara Leibovitz
Warner Home Video 2008
83 minutes + 60 minutes of extra features

If you have ever been blown away by a photographic portrait is was either by Yosuf Karsch, Richard Avedon, or Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz’ pictures for Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, usually of an American celebrity, are often daringly unusual. Annie Leibovitz Life Through A Lens is a DVD portrait and biographical documentary on the most famous photographer of the last forty or so years.

Annie Leibovitz Life Through A Lens follows the photographer as she works on the famous Kirsten Dunst Versailles shoot for Vanity Fair and cuts to home movies, interviews with some of the photographer’s subjects, early footage inside Rolling Stone Magazine, film footage from the Summer of Love, other visual documents, and an interview with Leibovitz herself as she is driving somewhere.

The first few minutes of this documentary DVD portrait uses a snapshot approach that is appropriate because of the subject and Leibovitz’ personality and frustrating because it is hard to get a linear grasp on the story; it then settles down and you get to see Leibovitz’ evolution and learning process through her Rolling Stone Magazine photographs and commentary by the photographer and others.

Though Annie Leibovitz Life Through A Lens was made by her baby sister Barbara, this documentary is not a rose-colored glasses documentary. There are a few negative comments and moments here and there. My favorite is “She can be Barbara Streisand with a camera”. They could have been developed more, especially those around her departure from Rolling Stone to Vanity Fair. The glam years at Vanity Fair are less interesting.

This portrait documentary is not perfect. A lot more about the famous John Lennon photograph and the events during and after it would have really been nice. So would have more insight into her relationship with Susan Sontag. Visually, the photographs could have been enlarged a bit more for the screen. The artifice of opening with Leibovitz’ mother taking family picture and closing with Leibovitz taking family pictures is a bit much.

If you are interested in Annie Leibovitz and a certain type of photography Life Through a Lens is an interesting documentary. There is however and much like in her more recent photographs, a certain superficial quality to the whole thing.

The jacket for this DVD says the main feature is subtitled. No such subtitles were available on either of the two DVD readers I used.

Special features on this DVD include interviews with some of the photographer’s subjects like Demi Moore and so on.

I would have preferred a photo gallery.

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