“All the beauty and the bloodshed”: a shocking doc on the fights of Nan Goldin, popess of the photo
This woman is extraordinary. The film that tells it too. In theaters on Wednesday March 15, the documentary “All the beauty and the blood shed”, by Laura Poitras, winner of the Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festivalworks wonders in a highly perilous exercise: portraying one of the most famous photographers of the moment, while narrating her fierce fight against a family in the American pharmaceutical industry.
To fully understand who Nan Goldin is today, you have to look at the afterword to the 21st edition of the book that made her famous in 1986, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency”. In this text added in 2021, she gives a new look at her famous shots, while spreading widely on her recent fight against the ravages of opioids that she imputes to the American pharmaceutical industry.
High Priestess of the American Counterculture
The two subjects seem quite distant, yet they are intimately linked, and the whole strength of the documentary is to constantly move from one to the other with magnificent fluidity. Nan Goldin unfolds the thread of her existence through the menu, with the frankness that characterizes her. Starting with his traumatic childhood in Massachusetts alongside his big sister, a free spirit who affirms her love for women at a very young age, and who will commit suicide after several periods of internment in a psychiatric hospital.
Bisexual, friend of the LGBT community, Goldin discovers her art alongside photographer David Armstrong and, once settled in New York, is quickly noticed with her incredibly intimate shots. It is her life, friendly, emotional, sexual, that she captures at every moment, via sublime and shocking images that will revolutionize photography. And what a life!
Frequenting drag queens and artists from the punk and no wave movements in the early 1980s, whose most famous figures we come across, Nan Goldin made the slogan “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” her daily life, which she exhibits in her slideshows. In “All the Beauty and the Blood Spilled”, she even confesses crucial but never admitted information about her relations with the New York prostitute community.
Many of his friends are gay and, with the arrival of AIDS, begin to fall ill, before dying en masse. Militant and combative, she will demonstrate alongsideActUp. In the years that followed, the world renown of her photos grew, Nan Goldin became one of the most sought-after living artists and acquired the status of high priestess of the American counter-culture, while maintaining her freedom. It was after rehab in Berlin in 2014 that, suffering from wrist pain, she was treated at OxyContin, a powerful mass-prescribed opioid in the USA. She manages to win, but discovers the ravages of this scourge on prescription: 400,000 dead at the time (500,000 today).
A thriller-like documentary
She then founded PAIN, an association which fights against the Sacklers, owners of the main manufacturer of OxyContin. She wants “everything to be filmed”, even if the struggle lasts for years, and proposes the idea of this long-term film to her friend Laura Poitras, one of the best documentary filmmakers in the world who notably signed “Citizenfour”, dedicated to Edward Snowden, winner of an Oscar in 2015. It is from this moment that “All the beauty and the bloodshed” takes on the appearance of a thriller.
Because, by constantly going back and forth between the life of Nan Goldin and his latest battle, we discover that the Sacklers are among the greatest patrons of art on the planet, sponsoring entire wings of museums such as the Guggenheim or the Metropolitan, which bear their name. However, in these museums and in the Sackler collections, there are many works by Goldin, one of the most purchased and exhibited photographers in the world!
We let you discover what legal actions and what spectacular stunts, modeled on those of Act Up, Nan Goldin and his friends will carry out in museums, which notably gives rise to a bewildering sequence in front of the Louvre pyramid. But this David versus Goliath confrontation will gradually bear fruit, the photographer never letting go. A beautiful story, coupled with the fascinating story of one of the greatest living artists…
” All the beauty and the bloodshed », documentary by Laura Poitras, with Nan Goldin (1h57).