Douglas Kirkland isn’t the first name to pop up when the Western world ponders photographers of the celebrated and powerful.
Leibowitz, Avedon, Ritts, Helmut Newton, maybe even Irving Penn if you’re into history.
Penn was something of a mentor to Kirkland, who came to photographing the worlds of fashion and the famous via photojournalism. He was one of the stars of the glory years of that profession, shooting famous photo essays for “Look” and “Life” magazines, documenting the Kennedy White House, Marilyn Monroe at her most playful and Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in the ’60s.
Those shots led the celeb and fashion mags to point him at generations of beautiful people whom he’d always take care “to show at their best.”
And as we watch him prep an elaborate, floral set transforming Elle Fanning into a fashion plate/flower child, hooting “Yes Yes YES, I LOVE it!” as he fires off frames once she shows up, we realize that the documentary about him, “That Click,” isn’t about past glories only.
He’s lasted into “an age when everybody photographs everything” thanks to his distinct, playful style, his enthusiasm, the “aura” he projects to those subjects in his process, an aura that comes out through the photos he produces, Nicole Kidman offers.
He’s been on the sets of 500 movies, from “The Sound of Music” and “Butch and Sundance” through Baz Luhrman’s “Moulin Rouge,” photographed Andy Garcia (interviewed here) and his model/actress daughter, bringing to every shoot a “romanticism” in creating images in poses and settings that many a movie cinematographer has noted what he’s done, and copied it for the film.
His many endorsements, from celebrities and peers, aside, “That Click” — it takes its title from the Kodak Brownie camera’s shutter sound which hooked him for life — isn’t a deep film, barely hinting at the absentee fatherhood, his personal life or his “photojournalist” bonafides.
Director Luca Severi’s film zeroes in on the beautiful people photographed beautifully, and barely troubles with anything else. Celluloid, large format or digital, the gorgeous can trust Kirkland to immortalize them in the most flattering light possible.
There’s plenty of those and plenty of that, and if that’s your thing, here’s an artist with a camera you should know about, the last of the post-Golden Age of Hollywood, pre-rock’n roll generation to make a mark.
MPA Rating: unrated
Cast: Douglas Kirkland, Sharon Stone, Elle Fanning, Michelle Williams, Herbie Hancock, Nicole Kidman, Andy Garcia
Credits: Directed by Luca Severi. A Film Movement release.
Running time: 1:30