So we are trying something a little different with Vicki, our new contributor. We both watched this documentary and gchatted about it. Here’s the transcript.
Vicki: The Woodmans.
Irene: OK Let’s talk
Vicki: …this documentary made me consider yet again how at times the job of a documentary filmmaker is very morally ambiguous. In this case, having parents relive the pain and guilt associated with the suicide of their young daughter Francesca. But, also, oddly the (hinted at) jealousy of Francesa for being the most successful artist in the family.
Irene: right! Also it makes you wonder where you draw the line between being an artist and being a parent.
Vicki: Oh my god, Irene. It made me uneasy.
Irene: me too
Vicki: They seemed to question the way they raised the children—emphasizing that there was nothing more important in life than art!
Irene: She was their creation. I went back and forth with how I felt about her parents
Vicki: SPOILERS: But, then! After her suicide her father begins taking photographs in the same vein as hers. That was very eerie to me.
Irene: to me as well. I tried to find something cathartic in it for him but it seemed like he was in suspended animation trying to understand her or see things the way she did.
Vicki: Yes. My opinion of them changed and changed. And I wondered if that was because of the filmmakers manipulation of their interviews or just them.
She was their creation!
Irene: Well I don’t know how much I thought the filmmakers were manipulating my response to them more than anyone who makes something is showing you what they want you to see. It seemed like a fair and multifaceted portrait of them - who knows really.
Vicki: Yeah. I read that they did not attend the movie premier, which I can understand not wanting to watch themselves explain their daughter’s art and suicide in front of an audience.
Irene: I was glad they talked about her suicide and I was glad the father said things like “I made it to 72, that’s something I did that Francesca didn’t” (paraphrasing obviously) - it was bitter and sad and confident all at the same time.
No, I wouldn’t want to go to that premiere either.
Vicki: yes, you’re right. And in terms of Francesca’s photographs, I really enjoyed them
Irene: me too! they are incredible!! But if she were your daughter wouldn’t you be like “hey, are you ok?”
Vicki: Yeah I don’t know, they are beautiful and fascinating but here’s a 15 year old girl taking nude photos of herself, distorting her face or hiding in the wallpaper. I think her parents chose not to see them as autobiographical. And, I think her friends and family thought she was fine as long as she was photographing. I think it was when she didn’t make it as a fashion photographer in NYC, she was like, “Well what the fuck do I do now?”
Irene: well, remember those pictures she took when she was a young teen of the clothes pins on herself?
Vicki: yes. crazy
Irene: and how her friend said she was scared for her when she saw them? I mean, that’s an intense thing to do.
Vicki: yes! you’re right!
Irene: and this isn’t a facebook/youtube culture where people are constantly discovering themselves by broadcasting. The mom said she worried her daughter had narcissistic tendencies, remember?
Irene: It’s just strange and it’s so beautiful but it also seems neglectful on the part of her parents. Is that wrong that I think that?
Vicki: No, I think parents who didn’t look for the art in everything would question her motives. in that way, they are very optimistic. and at times I found myself jealous of her freedom to express herself as a teenager. I think most teenagers have a really hard time, and she didn’t hold anything back
Her parents are optimistic or in denial.
Irene: maybe a little of both.
But didn’t you love those people as parents? and her?
Vicki: Oh totally. I think they did the best they knew how and i think if things had gone differently, it would be without a doubt, “what a cool way to raise your child, to teach them there is no shame in expressing yourself through art.”
Irene: If Francesca didn’t cast such a shadow you could say that about Christopher. It could still be a great documentary about this family of successful artists. Nice people.
Vicki: yes, real nice people
Irene: but Francesca adds this whole other element and exposes all this ugliness
Vicki: yeah. the parents never fought, everyone was happy, she got along with her brother. but there was this whole thing about her never finishing a school year, always moving around and about. maybe always feeling like a stranger, which perhaps allowed her to be so comfortable showing herself as an artist with pride, literally naked
someone in the documentary said she had a rockstar quality and i was all like, “yup”
Irene: totally. Vicki! I have to go. I’m sorry
Vicki: bye shyreese