Countless documentaries have feebly attempted to probe and illuminate the creative process (the phrase "dancing about architecture" springs to mind), and even artist Gerhard Richter—an 80-year-old master of many brush styles and ideas, from photorealistic portraiture to abstract expressionism—believes his work can't be described with words. "Painting is another form of thinking," the soft-spoken but no-bullshit iconoclast tells director Corinna Belz, whose magnificent and evocative observances of him laboring in his studio come as close as cinema gets to tracking the impulses and paradoxes of a gifted imagination. Alone with his enormous canvases, Richter studies his own vibrant-hued strokes and patterns, disappoints himself in the moment, then destroys and creates anew with a giant squeegee pulled across the would-be work of art, aided by Belz's deeply satisfying attention to the tactile sounds of paint slapped on or scraped away. New and vintage interviews with curators, historians, and collaborators help contextualize Richter's five-decade career, but who even needs talking heads when you have panning shots of exhibition-layout thumbnails—rich, beautiful art on their own at 1:50 scale. Gerhard Richter Painting convincingly immerses us in the world of one of the greatest, painting.
The artist at work.
Runs Fri., March 23-Thurs., March 29 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 97 minutes.