Tivoli Theatre Presents – After Hours Film Society – All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
March 13 @ 7:30 pm
A Documentary Directed by Laura Poitras
Featuring Nan Goldin
Rating: Not Rated
When director Laura Poitras’ documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” snagged the top prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, in a field of qualifying titles including “Tár” and “The Banshees of Inisherin,” accusations of contrarian virtue-signaling were flung hither and yon, in some cases even by people who’d actually managed to see it.
Well, those people weren’t right. The film is a gem — a supple, unpredictably structured and deeply personal portrait of its primary subject, the photographer, visual artist and activist Nan Goldin.
And that isn’t all. This portrait belongs to a much larger societal landscape. Poitras’ film expands, naturally, by way of Goldin’s own history and her more recent history of both addiction and effective public dissent, as “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” becomes a tale of the opioid epidemic (roughly 500,000 dead in the U.S. alone), which was and is a human-made tragedy.
That tragedy made Purdue Pharma, and its controlling family, the art-loving, image-conscious Sackler clan, extraordinarily wealthy thanks to OxyContin and other insidiously popular painkillers. The Sacklers never went to prison, though they agreed to pay nearly $6 billion in apology and epidemic “abatement” funds. Once Purdue wraps up bankruptcy proceedings, it’ll turn into Knoa Pharma. The Sacklers will remain shielded legally from future litigation relating to the public health crisis that fed its coffers for so long.
That paragraph might suggest Poitras settles for a blunt anti-ravenous capitalist tract. She doesn’t, and “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” isn’t. It’s something much more interesting — Poitras and her creative team have entwined two, even three stories to create a narrative of an American saga bridging the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st.
Goldin narrates, and her photographs of Lower Manhattan, before, during and after the worst of the AIDS epidemic help tell the story. Raised in a tense, secretive Jewish middle-class family, in Swampscott and Lexington, Massachusetts, Goldin was 11 when she lost her older sister to suicide. As a photographer, years later, after moving to New York, Goldin made her mark with a portfolio full of harsh, exquisitely observed moments captured among her overlapping circle of friends. Models, junkies, drag queens, musicians, observer-participants like herself — anything and everything seemed possible, yet shadowed by danger.
In recent years Goldin’s artworks and photography have been acquired by a prestigious rung of major museums — several funded, handsomely, by the Sacklers. Having come through her own opioid crisis by the skin of her teeth, in 2017 Goldin helped found the pushback organization P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). Her protests led to what some consider frustratingly symbolic justice, with the Sackler sponsorship name coming off one museum wall, then another and another. Poitras’ calmly gripping, multiple-chapter account of her ceaselessly reinventing subject examines the nuances of culpability, along with the costs of a thirsty, hazardous artistic life in a certain time and place. It’s a very full experience.
It wouldn’t be half as effective had Poitras treated Goldin as a kind of Bowery saint or a shining-armor exemplar of righteousness. She’s a complicated human, an artist and a woman who has spent much of her adulthood trying to figure out life, love, the violence of jealousy, her parents’ treatment of her sister and plenty more. The faint whiff of sanctimony that occasionally clouded Poitras’ fine Oscar-winning Edward Snowden doc, “Citizenfour,” is nowhere to be found here. “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is one of the very best of 2022.
$7.00 Members | $11.00 Non-Members
5021 Highland Avenue | Downers Grove, IL
630-968-0219 | classiccinemas.com
We apologize—Movie Pass cannot be used for AHFS programs