Synopsis: Filmmaker Richard P. Rogers tried for twenty years to make a documentary about his own life. He died in 2001, leaving the project unfinished, until his widow, acclaimed photographer Susan Meiselas, commissioned his former student Alexander Olch to make a film out of the pieces. Starting in the Hamptons, in the town of Wainscott, the film weaves Rogers’ footage into a journey through childhood memories, a less than encouraging mother, a family background of privilege, and Rogers’ persistent, dogged attempts to document his own life. Rogers’ friend, actor and writer Wallace Shawn, joins in the process, as the film investigates the differences between documentary and fiction, and tells the tragic story of Rogers’ life. [Synopsis courtesy of film's official website]
Round-up: "'The Windmill Movie' is a stirring autobiography-by-proxy," writes Nick Schager in his positive review for Slant Magazine. "It's a reconstructed depiction of a contradictory artist and man, an act of memory... preservation and facilitation whose eloquence, largely free of pat analysis, captures the messy, paradoxical emotions that often remain irreconcilable to the grave." Time Out's S. James Snyder finds the doc similarly absorbing, noting that "This is honesty bordering on masochism, and Olch theorizes that the project was far too personal for his teacher to finish before his death. Poring over hundreds of hours of footage and recording the narration as if from Rogers’s perspective, Olch completes this tortured, unflinching opus about a man so distraught by not having all the answers that he failed to notice he was asking all the right questions." Other critics have found the movie too pretentious to enjoy, however. "From the wall-to-wall piano score to Rogers’ tedious navel-gazing, 'The Windmill Movie' renders prosaic and pretentious the churning conflict behind the process of artistic creation," says Noel Murray for the A.V. Club. Similarly, the Village Voice's Melissa Anderson observes that "If an obscenely privileged person has the good sense to apologize for his whining, does this self-awareness make the pity party any more tolerable?... Is it possible that Rogers—who, after Meiselas gets an abortion, can think selfishly only of the "similarities to my film, my aborted film"—never completed his movie because he knew it would be insufferable?"