Way back in 2005, DJ Kelly and I were filmed for a movie called “Guest of Cindy Sherman.” I blogged about it here. Last year it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and now it’s having a theatrical run, starting this Friday at Cinema Village in Manhattan. It’s an interesting film, the story of Paul H-O, a guy who’d made a little niche for himself with a cable access TV show called “Gallery Beat,” and what happened to his life when he started dating an attractive young woman who’s widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the late 20th Century.
What do you think happened? Try to guess.
In an interview in the 2008 Art Issue of The Believer, Robyn O’Neil describes the moment when she was 16 and growing up in Omaha and suddenly realized that friends were taking up too much of her time. “I made this really distinct choice, where I had to be a little selfish, that was the only way I could see this—being an artist—working out for me.” She stopped seeing her friends, and she started drawing more.
I think it’s a choice all women have to make: The friends, or the work? The baby, or the art? The husband, or the novel? It’s not the same for men: A male artist who chooses to get married is usually choosing to have someone look after his basic needs so he can work more. I remember reading a Reader’s Digest profile of some big-deal musician, back when I was growing up in Omaha, and this guy said about his much-younger wife, “My need of her gives meaning to her life.” Even as an 8-year-old girl, I knew that guy was an asshole. I can’t even remember who it was, but it was so offensive to me that I never forgot it. And I don’t think a famous, accomplished woman would ever say that about a guy.
So “Guest of Cindy Sherman” brings up a lot of issues about the construction of identity, and the art world and women’s place in it, and how men artists are treated differently, and the male ego, and how women are expected to be just a little less successful than men. But what makes it complicated, and more interesting, is that it’s clear these two people really cared about each other, were happy together. You can tell that Paul H-O adored Cindy Sherman. And then it’s not enough for him, and she has to make that choice.
In the end, I think “Guest of Cindy Sherman” is a very sad film. Paul H-O reminds me of Bottom, the ass-headed mechanic in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” who is beloved by Titania, queen of the fairies, when she’s placed under an enchantment. Once the spell is broken, Titania flees in disgust and Bottom is left to mull over what happened. “I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was: Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was--and methought I had--but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.”
Of course, Bottom didn't make a movie about their relationship and enter it in the Tribeca Film Festival.
Thanks for reading my blog post this time, and may God bless.