If One Thing Matters: A Film About Wolfgang Tillmans

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If One Thing Matters: A Film About Wolfgang Tillmans
Directed by Heiko Kalmbach
September 18 through 24
Anthology Film Archives

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Heiko Kalmbach, another would-be DVCam Vasari, has produced an artist documentary that's best when its subject, a German-born, London-based photographer, isn't addressing the camera. The title abbreviates "If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters," Wolfgang Tillmans's Tate exhibition, which represents the platitudes that he falls back on when discussing his work ("If you put in a little bit of effort, it does turn out better"; "Stuff that's thought up will always just be thought-up stuff"). The footage, gathered from shoots between 2000 (when Tillmans won England's Turner Prize) and 2003, shows him filling the appointments of a world-famous gallery icon. With the accustomed self-confidence born of early success—he was a club kid wunderkind—and impressive stature, Tillmans is introduced re-editing a print interview (a bit diva-ish, that). Subsequently, he'll hang a wall-size piece with the help of three handlers and three forklifts, win a succession of courtiers and sycophants with his sharp, triangular grin, and dilettantishly fumble out a music video assignment for the Pet Shop Boys. A shoot with Fassbinder actress Irm Hermann signifies Tillmans's desire—and the desire of every high-profile German-speaking artist (hello, Fatih Akin)—to huff the fading smell of RWF's genius. Like the rest of the film, though, it does little to convince the unconverted of Tillmans's own.

 
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