Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CHOP SUEY - Bruce Weber doc for fans only

CHOP SUEY is a fascinating biographical documentary from fashion photographer Bruce Weber. The format inter-cuts a photoshoot with Weber's new obsession - a handsome wrestler and male model called Peter Johnson - with footage of Weber talking Pete through his influences and early subjects - focusing largely on a jazz singer called Frances Faye and Diana Vreeland. The movie is filmed largely in Weber's characteristic black and white, and employs a rather dreamy collage of scenes and stories, coupled with his relaxed, inviting voice-over. I found it mesmerising but I can imagine many viewers finding it confused and elliptical. What fascinates me about Weber is that he often produces overtly homo-erotic images of people that he views almost as mind-less Grecian statues. And yet, these people are typically married with kids, and Weber is himself straight. He never seems to think this is strange - beauty is where it falls. All of which stands in sharp contrast to the stance of Frances Faye, who looms large in this documentary, and who was, rather bravely, very open about her homosexuality in the 1950s. The result is a movie that tells you rather little about Weber but maybe quite a lot. He stands in contrast to photographers like Arbus who are sometimes accused of exploiting their subject matter. In the moment when he shoots them, Weber is clearly in love. He has the best of intentions, even if those intentions are barely articulated.

CHOP SUEY played Berlin and Toronto 2001 and was released in the UK in 2002.

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