The New York “artist type” is so ingrained in the culture that we don’t need more of a prompt than that phrase to get a mental picture.
But it’s not all young, ambitious, pretentious strivers — hipsters from hither and yon — who comprise the scene. What about the old timers, the academics still struggling to make a mark, on summer break in their 60s?
Laurie Simmons takes that spin on a stereotype and the world that films from “Slaves of New York” and “Basquiat” to “Tiny Furniture” have shown us and gives us “My Art,” a dry but droll riff on The Artist at 65 — still inspired, still out there working that inspiration, and still pretentious and gushy and self-absorbed, too.
She plays Ellie, a conceptual artist and college professor who will house-sit in the Woodstock area of upstate New York and use that time to work on a some videos.
Ellie keeps up the facade of enthusiasm, even as one former student (Lena Dunham, her “Tiny Furniture” director and co-star) humble-brags about “having” to go to (Venice) “The Bienalle” (art show) and a peer (Blair Brown) gushes “love your art mind…LOVED your last show, which was a while ago.”
Whatever the value, or burden, of her support system, Ellie piles herself and her aged Airedale into the car and into the country, where a big house, a stocked (pot and wine included) fridge, a studio space and her video camera await.
To say nothing of the artsy locals. EVERYbody is an actor, it seems — even the landscapers (Robert Clohessy, and “Uncut Gems” director Josh Safdie) for starters.
The menfolk pay her entirely too much attention — sometimes tactlessly. But she soldiers on, fiddling around with her old movies ideas — collages covering up old posters, video re-stagings with herself — and eventually many local co-stars — of scenes from Dietrich’s “Morocco,” Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Gable and Monroe in “The Misfits,” “Some Like it Hot” and “Jules et Jim.”
It feels for all the world like indulgent, narcissistic nonsense, and Simmons milks the pose for all it’s worth. “I’m in my PROCESS…I need my SPACE.”
Simmons as filmmaker lets us see Ellie’s “inspiration,” picking up on who this waitress could mimic as a model, on the oily dance-floor smarm possibilities (William Powell movies!) of a blind date (John Rothman) she was set up with by her student assistant, the guy’s stepson.
The interpersonal entanglements don’t amount to much. But Simmons makes Ellie feel real — shallow, but real — and surrounds Ellie with interesting bit players (Parker Posey plays one actor/landscaper’s shrill wife) and the art-movies-within-the-movie are kind of amusing.
“My Art” is now streaming on Film Movement+ and Amazon Prime Video.
MPAA Rating: unrated, pot use, smoking, sexual situation, profanity
Cast: Laurie Simmons, Parker Posey, Blair Brown, John Rothman, Robert Clohessy, Josh Safdie and Lena Dunham
Credits: Written and directed by LAurie Simmons. A Film Movement+ release.
Running time: 1:26