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Beautiful Losers (DVD)

Can good art be 'awesomely dumb'?

Disc Specs

Starring Ed TempletonHarmony KorineMike MillsBarry McGeeChris JohansonGeoff McFetridgeAaron Rose Disc Cover
Directed By Aaron Rose Certificate 15
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Visuals 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Running Time 87 mins
UK Release Date August 24, 2009
Genre Documentary
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Artists can be an eccentric bunch. Take, for example, the 12 artists featured in this documentary. One, Stephen Powers, sports an Eraserhead hairstyle. A second, Geoff McFetridge, was inspired to launch a career in art after viewing the 1970s sci-fi Battlestar Galactica. Another, the director, Aaron Rose, dreamed of becoming a dustbin man as a child, even going so far as to get his parents to take him to the city dump on his birthday.

Yet geeky as they were, by the 1990s these 12 assorted outsiders and misfits had all become leading figures in New York’s contemporary art scene. For Mike Mills, the motivation was simple: “Getting back at all the tan, blonde motherfuckers who wouldn’t talk to me.”

Harmony Korine (artist and director of Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely) is perhaps the gloomiest of the characters interviewed, recalling how a childhood friend was decapitated in a gang murder on the site of what is now a popular kids’ play area. Yet, in general, the tone is upbeat with music and animation enlivening what could, in different hands, have been a hard slog. At times, the direction – by Rose and one time Blair Witch Project actor Joshua Leonard – is reminiscent of Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys: perhaps a deliberate move, as the film reveals the worlds of skateboarding and art are much closer than one might have thought (a key early exhibition focused on “Board Art”).

The film overstates the extent to which the artists’ work broke into the mainstream: a few Beastie Boys album covers, some adverts and Harmony Korine’s relatively little seen film Gummo do not exactly constitute a cultural revolution. Yet this is nevertheless surprisingly watchable stuff, perhaps saved by the fact that the movement was, in Mike Mills’ words, “awesomely dumb”. With a few exceptions, the film remains generally unpretentious throughout its entire running time, which in any film about art has to be some sort of achievement.

Overall Verdict: Art or arse? Only you can decide, but the film itself is refreshingly accessible and not up itself.

Special Features:

Reviewer: Chris Hallam

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