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Brigitte Cornand's The Red Birds Riffs on Art, Life, Womanhood

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The Red Birds
Directed by Brigitte Cornand
April 21 through 27, Anthology Film Archives

Some visual artists are blessed with the ability to speak compellingly about their life and work, their insight serving as a forceful adjunct to their art. Others, when given the opportunity, indulge in a bloated stream of prattle that's either too academic, too abstract, or too precious to communicate many concrete ideas to a receptive listener. It's the latter tendency that predominates in Brigitte Cornand's Red Birds, a short video project in which the filmmaker sets off brief conversations with Louise Bourgeois, Carolee Schneemann, and a dozen other female artists with homemade footage of 14 varieties of bird, each species serving as a thematically apposite onscreen avatar for one of the film's subjects. No comprehensive consideration of the creative process, Cornand's video unfolds as a series of modest riffs on the intersections of art, life, and womanhood, as the subjects reflect on their upbringing, the difficulty of forming a personal identity, and what it means to be a female artist. But for every lucid recollection of having to overcome parental resistance and forge one's own path, there are whole reams of stale talk about the "spirituality" of nature, a catalog of stilted phraseology, and Kiki Smith's gaseous discussions of her gender-flipping, chronology-shuffling readings of the Bible.

 
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