“Brilliant. It was very, very well done.” Of all the commentary out there on Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, Ai Weiwei‘s short piece for the Guardian is certainly among the most notable: “It had the human touch. In Zhang Yimou’s opening ceremony [for Beijing in 2008] there was almost none of that. You could not push into a person’s face and see the human experience. What I liked most with this was that it always came back to very personal details. And that’s what makes it a nation you can trust; you see the values there. Anyone who watched it would have a clear understanding of what England is.”
“Has this 55-year-old Chinese conceptual artist cum political activist supplanted Damon Hirst or Jeff Koons as the art world’s reigning superstar?” asks J. Hoberman at the top of a review of Alison Klayman’s documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry for Artinfo. “Certainly, Ai is the contemporary artist with the greatest claim to a global perspective and the most profound investment in social media…. More than anything else, it has been Ai’s ongoing insistence on transparency… that has frightened and infuriated Chinese authorities.”
“While Klayman may rightly claim a familiarity with the portly provocateur who was named, in 2011, number one in ArtReview‘s Power 100 and a runner-up to Time‘s ‘Person of the Year,’ there’s little evidence that she grasps the contours of his world,” finds Genevieve Yue, writing for Reverse Shot. “Though I take issue with the assumption that documentaries should be automatically imbued with didactic or ‘consciousness-raising’ purpose (they are, like any form of artistic production, constructed discourses that can be deployed any number of ways), I’m concerned that Klayman’s view is myopic to the point of distorting, or disregarding outright, the highly complex intersections of east-west politics, culture, and the international art market.”
But at Slant, Andrew Schenker finds that “the director’s clear-minded approach allows her subject’s more challenging aesthetic-political mix to shine through, even if it’s at the inevitable expense of her own filmmaking proclivities.”
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: “Last Friday a Chinese court ruled against Mr. Ai, who had argued that tax authorities were wrong when they raided his home studio last year and swept him away for three highly publicized months. Ms. Klayman’s documentary doesn’t include this latest development, of course, but it’s nonetheless extraordinarily up to date. The fluidity and convenience of digital moviemaking tools explain some of its freshness, as does Ms. Klayman’s history as a budding documentarian. It’s clear from watching both the feature and its earlier iterations that, while she was learning about Mr. Ai, she was also learning how to tell a visual story. It’s easy to think that hanging around Mr. Ai, a brilliant Conceptual artist and an equally great mass-media interpolater, played a part in her education.”
More from David D’Arcy (Artinfo), Sandra Larriva (Cinespect), Andrew O’Hehir (Salon), and Keith Phipps (AV Club, B+). Interviews with Klayman: Kevin Canfield (Filmmaker), Karina Longworth (Voice), and Stephen Saito.