Guest of Cindy Sherman is part love story, part biography, part critique of the art world, but ultimately it is the story of one man as he wades through what it means to love someone much more famous than oneself. Going in, I had a sense of what the narrative was about and assumed that it would be bitter, broken-hearted screed. What it ends up being is a sweet, but sad story of lost love.
Paul Hasegawa-Overacker (he goes by Paul H-O) was the cameraman and producer of a NYC public access show in the 1990s called Gallery Beat. He and his co-hosts would attend gallery openings and then discuss the art, which pretty much seems to be why there is art (right?). Anyway, some people liked them. Others didn't (wow, is Julian Schnabel a jack-ass!). Somehow their show and Paul H-O, in particular, charmed the reclusive Cindy Sherman into letting them into her studio as she prepared for a show around 2000. What ensues is the love story of Cindy and Paul and his eventual sense of loss of identity.
What is interesting about this loss of identity is that he clearly sees the sexism in his own feelings of insecurity. At one point he even makes a comment to the effect of, "I didn't sign up to be the wife." He wrestles with the idea, he goes on WFMU and talks to Bronwyn and Kelly, he talks to other couples with this perceived imbalance. All of this is made even more poignant in light of Sherman's work that so often centers on the loss of identity.
The press I read said that Cindy Sherman refused to cooperate with the film, which lead me to think there was going to be an antagonist feeling to the film. However, the film was started when the couple was together and she supported the idea. Hasegawa-Overacker never makes Sherman out to be the villain, rather the art world plays the mustache twirler in this melodrama. The movie may be worth it alone for the scene where Paul talks to the publicist in charge of scheduling Damien Hirst.
The movie feels a little unresolved at the end. Maybe in particular because I heard that there is a feature about Sherman in this month's Vogue and that she is dating David Byrne.