All who live around creativity, as we do in this area, know its pitfalls as well as its soaring heights. The money dries up, or takes months to arrive after being promised or even contracted for. The jobs can become sparse. The need for positive reinforcement – because creative minds can’t help but get their egos mixed up in their work – is constant and wearying.
A case in point concerns the life of an actress like the one at the center of Beacon-based filmmaker Robert Greene’s new feature documentary Actress. The movie will be showing at Upstate Films in Woodstock on Saturday, November 29 with Greene and his star/focus Brandy Burre on hand for a Q&A after the screening.
Greene’s celebrated new film follows Brandy Burre, an actress (HBO’s The Wire) who gave up working to start a family and decided to re-start her career years later.
With glimpses of her stint on The Wire and a funny peek at Burre sifting through paltry royalty checks while her daughter plays nearby, Actress presents a sharp contrast between the allure of the spotlight and the dull rhythms that continue once it recedes. But as she returns to work, the affirmative aspect of her careerism is juxtaposed with conventional expectations about what a woman in her late 30s is supposed to want. Pivoting on an off-screen event that feels as impactful as the drama that takes place on camera, it becomes unclear how much Brandy is sacrificing the feelings and futures of her loved ones on the altar of self-interest. Acting, in the end, is not only Brandy’s profession; it’s something that she does all the time, whether interacting with her restaurateur husband Tim, her children or Greene’s camera.
Greene, who previously made the acclaimed Fake It So Real, about amateur wrestlers, and Kati with an I, which followed a Southern teen facing the onset of adulthood, sees his latest as the third in a trilogy all about self-identity and the idea of performance as an element of all our everyday lives. The film carries its audience into a singular life, then watches as it evolves beyond normal single-goal hopes into…well, more of real life.
“Documentary is most interesting when there’s a mingling of messy reality and artificial filmmaking, and she was the perfect subject to talk about those things. There is the element of performance in everything,” said Greene of Actress. “I like movies where you sit down and are challenged intellectually and emotionally in a way that takes you to another level.”
The film has made a number of best-of-year lists. It’s a unique and deeply local, work.