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HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Beauty is Embarrassing Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Beauty is Embarrassing

Directed by Neil Berkeley

Beauty is Embarrassing also shares the same title with one of the paintings of its subject, Wayne White. That particular piece of artwork belongs in the phase where his supposed ‘shtick’ is being to superimpose pastel-coloured block letters over kitschy landscape paintings. Hopefully I haven’t said it yet but this is the closest I’ll get to the festival with having seen a straight-up biopic. It interweaves two major ‘plots,’ one is a linear portrayal of his life through archive footage and interviews of people he knew and still knows. The other is his homecoming, this quasi-reluctant Angeleno experiencing a homecoming to his provenances of Alabama and Tennessee.

We don’t even notice these conventional forms when we hear his voice, saying hilarious non-sequiturs given life but his art of many mediums. He seems naturally made for this kind of art world fame. He tells the camera that he has felt more Southern moving out to New York and LA than he would have had he stayed. But that’s not the only reincarnation he’s had, as he’s known in his home states as one of the puppeteers in the seminal show Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I also didn’t know how much his work has touched me and children who grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, his resume including a show I used to watch when I was a teenager – the equally wacky and informative Beakman’s World. His work, in his ‘Hollywood’ and ‘art’ stages, can be classified as surrealist, a natural tendency that takes the kitschy art that he grew up with to another crazy level, and the movie keeps up with him and the energy levels of the other creative people in the different stages of his fascinating life.

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