Amazon.ca Widgets

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sean Kelly

Review: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

Errol Morris documents the career of photographer Elsa Dorfman in The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography. Elsa Dorfman is a "nice Jewish woman," who found herself partaking in a career as a photographer in New York of the mid-1960s, with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg being some of her most notable subjects. For most of her career, Elsa Dorfman became most well known for her 20x24 Polaroid portraits. Now retired following the discontinuation of Polaroid film, Dorfman goes through her archives and recounts her career.

For his latest film, Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War) forgoes the "interrotron" format that he most known well known for and instead directs a relatively straight forward documentary about photographer Elsa Dorfman. Now retired and in her 80s, Dorfman goes through the boxes of old photographs she has in her studio, which are used to tell the story of her career.

Elsa Dorfman was not really a photographer I was all that familiar with before watching The B-Side. At the start of her career, which began in her late-20s, Dorfman was embroiled with Greenwich Village scene and the Beat Generation. In fact, Dorfman was very close friends with poet Allen Ginsberg, with the film even featuring a scene of her going over one the last portraits she took of him, while listening to a phone message from shortly before he died. Elsa Dorfman's claim to fame was the 20x24 Polaroid portraits that she took, with her often enjoying the "b-side" photographs that were rejected from her clients.

I have to say that The B-Side is more a documentary for people who are very interested in photography, than for fans of Errol Morris' other films. The film is little more than a biography of Elsa Dorfman's entire career and there are moments around the middle of the film when I was struggling to hold my attention. What is interesting in the film is Dorfman lamenting the death of Polaroid film, which in a way marked the end of her photography career.

I can't really say I fully recommend The B-Side, but it might be worth watching for the photography buffs out there.

6 / 10 stars
  WATCHABLE 

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).