Movie review: 'Finding Vivian Maier' is a fascinating snapshot

For the News-DemocratApril 24, 2014 

"Finding Vivian Maier" is a fascinating documentary on an enigmatic nanny in Chicago who led another life as a street photographer. Her work, discovered after her death five years ago, has revealed a true artist.

Amateur historian John Maloof purchased a treasure trove of her photographs and films at an auction, not realizing what he would find out. That led him to start digging through the woman's life, and discovered an intensely private woman with secrets. All the mystery that surrounds her isn't divulged during this excellent portrait, but the film does have compelling interviews with her now- grown charges, people who hired her (including Phil Donahue), and others who knew her.

Documentarian Charlie Siskel and Maloof collaborated on this film, and a complicated portrait emerges that is both intriguing and troubling.

The most striking aspect is her black-and-white photographs, thousands of beautifully composed snapshots of people and places that she took with a Rolleeiflex box camera.

Maloof brought her work to the attention of galleries and media, and she has received the notoriety in death that she never wanted in life.

And that raises other questions, too. Do we cross a line when we go through a person's past posthumously?

One thing is certain: The woman's artistry is unforgettable, no matter what you think about Maloof digging through her personal effects.

It's a story that deserves to be told.

3 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Charlie Siskel and John Maloof

Length: 1:24

Rated: Not rated; documentary

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