Art Bastard – Documentary Review

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A long winded and repetitive telling of the life and times of satirical artist, Robert Cenedella.

Art Bastard is a documentary about contemporary American artist Robert Cenedella.  The film outlines his early childhood, family troubles, how he became an artist and what brought him to his specific stylization of contemporary and satirical art. A large portion of the film focuses on his early career in the late 60’s dissecting and thoroughly examining the evolution of his artistic style.

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For starters the film is staunchly low budget to the point where it could have very well been shot on cell phone camera. Understandably this independent documentary about a lesser known American artist probably would not come with a big budget, however director Victor Kanefsky made several missteps that accentuated their shallow pocketbooks. For example, in the starting credits of the film you can see a boom-mic in the upper left hand corner within the first few minutes. Come on, why not re-shoot the scene since it was only a filler shot anyways to roll starting credits? Many of the interview scenes have poor lighting and even bad audio with background noise.

Secondly, the content of the film documents the life of Robert Cenedella from childhood to his peak in the 1960s/1970s and then the descent into his current status queue. Beyond the spotty composition of the film the storyline that describes Cenedella’s life focuses far too long on his family upbringing. He describes his childhood and having many different family issues. Yes, his past transitions into his art but it seemed like the majority of the film was a counseling session that the viewer is awkwardly forced to witness.

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The most interesting part was a roughly 15-minute segment that described Cenedella’s peak in the early 60s when he openly mocks a much more famous artist Andy Warhol. His tongue-in-cheek art pieces are put into an art show that brings hundreds of people to see him make fun of how corrupt and simplistic society is as a whole. With the wide success of that very show he is approached by large marketing and advertising firms that offer him a chance to get in on the pop-art action but he outright refuses. After stepping out of the lime-light his mentor, friend and art instructor German artist George Grosz passes and he takes yet another hit and leaves the art world for almost a decade.

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After trying his hand at a life of normalcy working a standard 9-5 job he realizes he’s meant to be in the art industry Cenedella enters back into the art world. Granted Cenedella’s highly detailed and humorous artwork is actually really interesting and quiet good, but this film does it no justice. The scenes where his art pans across the screen is truly mesmerizing, as you try to take in each little person and their actions. You are hungry for more but the art comes and goes so quickly. This film had potential to be fairly interesting since Cenedella is a great artist, but the overall approach was a miss. After watching this documentary it seems true that the best way to view art is up close in person, especially for Cenedella’s intricate pieces.

Art Bastard is not yet rated and has an 82-minute runtime.

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