Screening free next Thursday at University of Puget Sound is “A Woman Like That,” a new documentary by Ellen Weissbrod on the 17th-century female painter Artemisia Gentileschi. While the filmmaker is rather tiresome, the story of this defiant and brilliant artist is well-told.
Gentileschi, rediscovered last century, was a painter who created historic, religious and portrait works to rival her many male peers. Working in the chiaroscuro style of Caravaggio, her paintings such as “Judith and Holofernes” and “Susanna and the Elders” add much more that just skill – Gentileschi paints real-world women seen from a female point of view.
Weissbrod uses Gentileschi to tell her own story, and that’s the tiresome part of the 93-minute film. A creatively stilted New York filmmaker whining in a quavery voice about middle-age does not make for fascinating screen time. But if you can suffer these bits, her travels through American and Europe to piece together Gentileschi’s life are fascinating: Mixing detective film camera angles with talking heads, Weissbrod dons hidden video equipment for an exhibition in St. Paul, gets ordinary women art-goers to opine about the paintings, and scores really good interviews with everyone from scholars to Italian curators and collectors to historical novelist Alexandra Lapierre.
Watching Weissbrod’s friends act out the paintings is slightly tacky, but hearing a vast raft of women identify with this talented, determined and strong woman artist who made her way in a man’s world is worth the watch.
“A Woman Like That” screens at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in room 103 of McIntyre Hall, UPS, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. It’s free to the public. www.pugetsound.edu