Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and the Tangerine

Perhaps a benefit of its epic gestation—much of the original footage dates back to ’93—this documentary biography of nonagenarian sculptor Louise Bourgeois nicely distinguishes itself from a current theatrical epidemic of stultifyingly admiring life-of-the-artist docs. Bourgeois, born in France but expatriated to the U.S. before World War II, has tangled with surrealism, feminism, postmodernism, and most any other -ism you could think of in the course of her creative life. Filmmakers Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach seem to have developed an unusual intimacy with their subject, and part of the pleasure to Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and the Tangerine is the intergenerational frictions that come up in Bourgeois and Wallach’s conversations, with the interviewer trying to coax her subject into mouthing explicitly feminist cant, and Bourgeois cannily demurring. When Wallach calls a Brancusi sculpture “phallic,” Bourgeois scoffs; while many activists read Bourgeois’ oeuvre as a rebellion against the patriarchy of her girlhood (the Guerrilla Girls: “She’s our icon, whether she likes it or not”), Bourgeois insists that she’s been reacting to one specific patriarch: her philandering father. The artist’s festering recollections of her girlhood mesh with guided first-person tours of her sculptures, creating a privileged look into a psyche rendered solid. (Movie screens through Thurs., Dec. 3). SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St. (McCaw Hall), 448-2186, www.siff.net. $8-$10. 7:30 p.m. NICK PINKERTON

Nov. 28-Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m., 2008

 
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