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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Art and Craft’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Art and Craft'

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sees everything, but Criticwire is here to point out films that might get lost
otherwise. 
Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“Art and Craft”
Dir: Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, Mark Becker
Criticwire Average: B+

Mark Landis is one of the most prolific art forgers in the world, having conned over 60 museums in 20 states, but he’s not in prison because he donated each painting. Landis has a history of mental illness, something that many (including the man who caught him, former Oklahoma City Museum of Art Registrar Matthew Leininger) suggest might motivate his behavior, but how much can that explain his impulse to create? The new documentary “Art and Craft,” which follows Landis and Leininger, investigates and attempts to explain.

Critics have debated how deftly “Art and Craft” handles its subject’s mental illness, with some feeling that it’s a deeply sympathetic portrait while others arguing that the film takes advantage of his condition. But most of the reviews agree that there’s something inherently fascinating about watching the man work on and deal his forgeries. Either way, it’s a film worth seeing and debating, simultaneously a celebration of his talents and a look at a unique kind of con man: one who means no harm.

“Art and Craft” is now playing in theaters.

Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine

“A&C” is very understanding of human frailty and presents both pseudo-antagonists in a sympathetic light. In a sense, the two men represent polar extremes, with Leininger arguing for truth above all, while Landis points to the immediate gratification produced by his gifts. Most viewers will line-up somewhere in the middle, alongside the curator organizing a display of Landis’s work. Read more.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

A well-rounded and compassionate portrait of an outsider with some degree of misdiagnosed mental illness, “Art and Craft,” is an engrossing document of immense talents gone sideways. Mark Landis has a level of craft and mimicry that is unparalleled, which goes beyond copying. But its meticulous fastidiousness seems rooted in a mania he cannot control. Soft-spoke and shy, it’s clear Landis has no malicious intent, but he’s nevertheless a massive stain on the reputation of the art world that many want to blot out. Read more.

Scott Tobias, The Dissolve

The most fascinating scenes in “Art And Craft” get into his process, both in his almost-preternatural talent for replicating great art at incredible speed, and in his criminal craftiness, which seems owed mostly to things he’s gleaned from classic TV and movies. He likes to play this role of the artist and philanthropist, and he doesn’t feel enough remorse about scamming people to stop himself from doing it. Cullman and Grausman extend a lot of sympathy to this strange, lonely, sick man as he goes about his business. But perhaps he’d been better left alone. Read more.

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

The best parts of the doc are when the camera just observes Landis in his own space, an apartment cluttered with stacks of art-world catalogs and journals, the television always tuned in to some old film or TV show (his version of white noise). But when he ventures out into the world (especially during the film’s climax in which he attends an exhibition built around his lifelong fabrications), he’s painted as more of a freak to gawk at—an off-kilter copy of a human being as opposed to truly, deeply human. Read more.

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