“Finding Vivian Maier” is a fantastic documentary about the mystery behind a complex woman and her profound works of photography. After purchasing roughly 30,000 negatives at an auction, director John Maloof is determined to uncover the history behind these works. Piecing together the puzzle that is Maier’s past, Maloof travels across the world, revealing the strange life of a self-taught photographer.
Meeting with those connected to Maier, Maloof reveals a woman who was dedicated to documenting the world around her, but who strove to keep her own life a secret. Maier did so quite successfully. Conflicting interviews leave many questions unanswered as the viewer is left to determine Maier’s true character. Who was this strange woman and why did she choose to hide her past?
What makes this film fantastic is not so much the work of Maloof and co-director Charlie Siskel as it is the content provided by Maier herself. Compared to photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Weegee, Maier’s photographs are captivating. Her unique eye provides a fascinating outlook on the world. She sees what the average eye does not and is not afraid to explore what is deep and dark about our world.
Not only will this film introduce you to one of America’s hidden talents, but will also leave you guessing. In “Finding Vivian Maier,” Maloof establishes an unfinished caricature and invites you to provide its final details. It is the unknown of this reclusive artist that is most intriguing. No longer around to confirm her feelings and beliefs, pieces of Maier’s life will always remain in shadows.
Like Maloof in his journey to understanding this multifaceted personality, the audience is left with feelings of obsession, determined and yet struggling to comprehend this strange woman and her peculiar habits. While opinions on Maier herself may vary, I can promise that you will fall in love with her work. If there is one thing to get out of this film, it is the discovery of an American master and an abundant archive of marvelous photographs.