“The B-Side,” Errol Morris’ newest film, is a tender masterpiece, nostalgic and pure!
Friday, June 30 is the date that marks this film’s opening at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center in New York City. This profound documentary is a gentle odyssey through the life of the portrait Polaroid photographer Elsa Dorfman, as recounted personally by the artist herself.
Elsa, 79 at the making of the film, opens the door to a uniquely personal perspective that is at once wistful and longing, yet charming and inspiring. Surprisingly intimate and nuanced, the film wraps you up in the kind of subtle human magic that only a well-crafted documentary can do.
To be privy to the story of Elsa’s artistic career is an absolute delight to watch. From experiences like the time spent with New York Beat poets, befriending Alan Ginsberg, photographing cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Robert McNamara, and even to opening her own studio where she worked photographing families and friends, is proof of a life thoroughly lived.
What sets Elsa’s story apart from other photographers of her generation was not only her striking portraits, but also the format in which she worked. Polaroid (the instant photography company) back in its heyday, was once experimenting with Large Formats, ranging from 20”x 25”, to 40” x 70” – essentially giant, epic, astonishing Polaroids! This became Elsa’s specialty for over 30 years.
But as history has taught us, all empires must come to an end, and so concluded the reign of Polaroid and all its magnificent products. For artist Elsa Dorfman the rare situation occurred that her medium had gone extinct.
“It’s a film about death!” says filmmaker Errol Morris speaking about the ephemeral phenomenon of life itself and all that we must learn to let go and live without; often being left with a mere static two-dimensional image of a moment that was everything but static!
These flashes of excitement, of love, of victory, of full experience – Elsa reminds us – only really take on their true meaning when the moment has finally expired; when the ones who are depicted are perhaps gone from our lives; when even our own history is finally beyond our reach. This philosophy – and so much more – is explored with such touching sincerity in this film.
As we look back with Elsa through the prism of time and distance we are essentially left feeling dreamy and reflective of our own private narratives and the moments we have chosen to remember. “The B-Side” is a perfect portrait of a humble artist who has found beautiful harmony and grace in an ever-changing world. This film will leave you peacefully musing all summer long.