Finding Vivian Maier is a curious little documentary, shedding light on an undiscovered artist, without really answering any of its own questions. What made this Chicago nanny more Brassaï than Poppins? Why did she never show her great work to a soul, hoarding compulsively? With its revelations about an unheralded artist, Finding Vivian Maier is this year’s Searching For Sugarman, but while her work is evidently remarkable it produces more head scratching than disbelief.
The documentary is co-directed by John Maloof, an historian and art collector who decided to pay a few hundred dollars at an auction for boxes upon boxes of never developed negatives. Maloof then went on to get them posted online, attracting considerable attention and critical acclaim. Perhaps this is the film’s true revelation, and miracle, for this man to have randomly discovered and cared for this needle in a haystack, allowing it to be enjoyed by the masses. Throughout, Maloof remains humble and he’s clearly infatuated by this strange woman’s fabulous work. It’s a mysterious film, wrapped up in enigma with every answer simply posing more questions. Dark secrets clearly lurk in Maier’s past to make her this strange mix of abusive, genious and compulsive hoarder. What those secrets might be remain hidden tightly in their own box, not to be revealed.
Finding Vivian Maier is out now in the UK. Running time 84 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
Review by David Rank