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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Remembering the Artist Review: Loving Remembrance That's Full of Surprises

The HBO Documentary lovingly resurrects the memory of a long-forgotten painter.

We all know the story of Actor Robert DeNiro and his incredible career. But for many in the art world during the 1940's, DeNiro's father preceded his son's success as a painter. The HBO Original Programming Documentary Remembering the Artist follows the turbulent path of DeNiro Sr as he falls in and eventually out of an art scene that he helped to inspire.

Documenting his meteoric rise to fame and sudden fall during the pop art minimalism of the 1960's, DeNiro Sr battled depression and acceptance of his homosexuality, eventually succumbing to cancer on his 71st birthday in 1993. Hosted by Actor Robert DeNiro and his sister Nera, the documentary introduces us to a young DeNiro Sr who blended abstract and expressionist styles, which bridged the divides between European modernism and abstract expressionism. But the effort came at a price, as the artist conflicted with dealers and others who felt his attitude and steadfast determination competed against his desire to attain financial success.

To hear the Actor DeNiro and Nera talk about their father - by reading excerpts from his journals - brings a heightened sense of understanding to this complex figure. Art lovers will find this documentary insightful, but fans of the actor will find his tearful testimonies about his father to be more surprising. It's clear from the interviews that he's held deep regrets about not helping his father more during the decline, a fact which helps to humanize an actor known mostly for his tough roles. For a relatively unknown figure to be the subject of a documentary is proof of DeNiro's success, but his father's art - memorialized in a preserved studio - must have been groundbreaking in an era that seemed like anything was possible.

Remembering the Artist sheds new light on a family filled with creative talent, but for whom real appreciation came only to the son, not the dad.

It's Unrated, has a runtime of 40 minutes, and finishes its run on HBO June 15th, 18th, 21st, and 25th and on HBO2 June 29th.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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