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MartinHafer30 May 2012
My summary above is very serious. When I look at the art of Annie Leibovitz, it looks pleasant but has no great affect on me. Because of that, I am probably NOT the best person to review this film--especially since I tend to have a very high level of disdain for celebrity--and Ms. Leibovitz is famous for her celebrity photos. Therefore, for me, it was not a particularly memorable episode. However, this does not mean it's poorly made or not worth seeing. I know that I am not a typical person and many love her "Vanity Fair" and "Rolling Stone" work. So let's talk about the quality of the documentary itself. Like all the "American Masters" shows, it's very high quality--well constructed and very professionally made. While I didn't care too much about watching her photograph famous folks, I did appreciate that the film was not just some fluff piece. It talked about her relationship with Susan Sontag (though it downplayed the homosexual aspect) and was very touching when she talked about her dying lover--showing a very vulnerable side of the lady. It also showed her with family--again, for me, the best parts of the show. Overall, well done--just not my favorite subject. Worth seeing.
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Engaging Documentary with a Mixed Message
l_rawjalaurence14 July 2013
This engagingly produced documentary concentrates on the various phases of photographer Annie Leibowitz's career, from her beginnings in the San Francisco protest movement in the late 1960s, to her long association with ROLLING STONE magazine, her subsequent move to VANITY FAIR and her work with VOGUE. We see her at work on photo-shoots in Paris and the United States, with subjects including actress Kirsten Dunst in MARIE ANTOINETTE. The program - originally produced on HBO - has a strong cast of celebrity interviewees including Whoopi Goldberg, Hillary Roddam Clinton, Tina Brown, and Yoko Ono. The overall impression, however, is a mixed one: while Leibowitz is an undoubtedly talented artist, with a unique ability to capture images on film, it seems that she has become more concerned with photographing celebrities, rather than recording life around her. It seems that contemporary cultures are more preoccupied with worlds of surface that obfuscate rather than explore the truth. This is a shame, as Leibowitz's early career, as well as her subsequent work in the Bosnian civil war of the 1990s, reveal her to be a talented historian as well as a war photographer.
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Photog Leibovitz Masters bottom of the barrel in more ways than one.
st-shot11 April 2009
There have been few if any American Masters that have disappointed me over its 20 plus year run on PBS. Most of the shows edified in ways that many times added to my understanding and appreciation of the artists. Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Charles Schultz and the remarkable Ella Fitzgerald to name a few were insightful looks at creative and original artists. Enter photographer to the stars Annie Liebovitz and this incestuous little valentine directed by her younger sister Barbara, Annie Leibovitz: Life through a Lens.

As "famous" as any living photographer Leibovitz since her Rolling Stone days has managed to have limitless access and entry to the world of celebrity populating her contrived canvases with star power and getting maximum front page exposure from the high end glossies Vogue and Vanity Fair. Totally artificial Leibovitz style resembles more Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue window dressing than master photography where Tussuad like wax figures are positioned and repositioned while Loebovitz with her entourage of assistants spend hours of discussion before manufacturing the decisive moment by committee. Results can range from provocative to pretentious. For better or worse her photographs of John and Yoko and painted and pregnant Demi Moore are iconic images of the times but they owe more to the fame of her subjects than the abilities of the artist.

Leibovitz's personal journey is also lacklustre since she reveals little of her relationships with Hunter Thompson and Susan Sontag and a bout with drug addiction is quickly and tidily dealt with while an inordinate amount of time is devoted to family photos and scenes around the pool. It's as if Sis' forgot she was making a PBS special and instead a family reunion DVD. There's a mountain of praise from celebrity subjects and her editors along with one lone voice of descent who cannot balance this love fest on her own.

American Masters does itself no favors when it purports to show the movers, shakers and originals of the art form and gives us the likes of a media darling hack with a minor in interior decorating while ignoring the monumental contributions of Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander,Dorothea Lange, Ester Bubley, Walker Evans, Bernice Abbott so forth and so on. Guess you can see where my irritation stems from. When it comes to compelling imagery I'll take Arthur Fellig (Weegee)with his Speed Graphic focusing at ten feet F stop 16 any day over Loebovitz and her court of technicians,set designers and celebrity subjects tending to staged flights of fancy which lack the purity and power of gritty truth and the pursuit of the "fleeing reality". With Loebovitz it's more about who you hang out with than composition. Times change and I guess PBS going Entertainment Tonight is a sounder business move when it comes to DVD sales. Shame on me for thinking it was about art.
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