“Eva Hess”: Marcie Begleiter’s unique and satisfying documentary is about the innovative German-Jewish artist who was born in Hamburg in 1936 and died in New York in 1970. Rated 3 out of 4 stars.
Born in Hamburg in 1936, the innovative German-Jewish artist Eva Hesse escaped the Nazis but died young in New York.
Several witnesses to her final days think she may have reached her artistic peak just before a brain tumor eliminated all chance of recovery. She was 34. The year was 1970.
It’s an exceptionally dramatic story, partly told previously in the Oscar-winning 2000 documentary “Into the Arms of Strangers,” about the “Kindertransport” that saved thousands of Jewish children from the Holocaust by moving them to England. Hesse was one of them.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Eva Hesse,’ a documentary written and directed by Marcie Begleiter. 108 minutes. Not rated (contains brief rough language). Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Filmmaker Marcie Begleiter addresses part of that story in a unique and satisfying new documentary, “Eva Hesse,” that focuses on Hesse’s success in the postwar art world, especially the autobiographical aspects that helped to focus her artistic ambition.
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Begleiter uses animation to suggest Hesse’s sense of abandonment. Her nightmares, which suggest the rough style of an early-1950s cartoon, seem to pop out of the screen. When the tumor returns, her fantasies are much dreamier.
Home movies capture the parties where her hard-drinking husband, Tom Doyle, takes over. He insists in a recent interview that she was “high maintenance,” and the movie almost turns into a he-said/she-said encounter between the living and the dead.