Review by Camden Ferrell
The name Marcel Duchamp may not mean too much to those not familiar with the art world (including myself unfortunately), but his impact on contemporary art is overwhelmingly evident. The new documentary, Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible, makes this evident. This movie may become too indulged in the jargon of the art world, but it is still a fitting and empowering story of one revolutionary artist.
In this movie, we learn about Duchamp’s career, his artistic beliefs, and the impact of some of his greatest works. After watching this documentary, it’s clear that Duchamp is an artist that had a lot of layers and complexities that would make him a challenging subject but also a subject with a lot of potential. The documentary does a fairly good job of exploring his persona in its brief runtime.
The documentary is organized fairly well as a whole. Director Matthew Taylor does a decent job of keeping ideas flowing naturally and conveying the ideas surrounding Duchamp in a cohesive way. There’s a lot to tackle, and on a purely structural level, the movie is able to juggle it sufficiently.
Luckily, there was some material that was able to be collected before Duchamp’s death in 1968. While more archival footage and audio bytes would have been ideal for the documentary, the movie does a decent job at utilizing what they had at their disposal. This included lots of written accounts and historical parables that was able to create a portrait of the kind of guy Duchamp was.
It was really interesting to see an examination of Duchamp’s works. The movie spends a lot of time on works like Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. These are significant works in his career that were very interesting and revealed a lot about his personal philosophies. However, the most interesting aspect of the documentary was Duchamp’s creation of the Readymade. This new form of art was revolutionary and controversial, and it was intriguing to learn about it.
The movie is also more cinematic than most documentaries of this nature. The cinematography is smooth and occasionally gorgeous throughout. It has some great B-roll that is used to alternate between the talking heads, and it really makes the experience a visual one as well as an educational one. This helps compensate for the movie’s brief lulls that it experiences.
While most of the movie is well-made, it does have on major flaw. It can often feel like it is getting too involved in its own world that its message gets lost in translation. There are some great interviews with people like Michel Gondry and David Bowie, but a lot of the time, the interviews are heavily jargon-filled and will definitely alienate those who are not familiar with art history.
Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible is a fairly strong look at the iconic artist and his legacy. It is an informative documentary about a man who would constantly rebel against himself to stay creative. Even if it can be too indulgent at times, the movie boasts a strong message that anyone can create, and anyone can have an idea that will change the world.
Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible is available on VOD March 10.