2023 Slamdance Film Festival: With Peter Bradley Review

“This intimate documentary portrait is the product of a collaboration between filmmaker Alex Rappoport and abstract artist Peter Bradley, who both live in Saugerties, New York.   When the two met in January, 2020, Peter was 79 and had neither sold many paintings nor had a major show in over four decades – yet he still painted every day in and around a shipping-container studio, heated by a wood stove, no matter what the weather…” (source)

Paint and jazz, jazz and paint, and a man who seems at peace having been a footnote in the legacy of other famous musicians and artists. His story is finally told, and it seems he’s on his way to recognition for his work, thankfully in his lifetime.

The beauty of “With Peter Bradley,” directed by Alex Rappaport, seeps from the barebones, blunt honesty of its’ subject, allowing the viewer to feel his connection to his family and his yearning for connection with artists who inspire him. A lot of screen time is devoted to Peter Bradley painting… and listening to jazz… until this becomes the backdrop for a trip through history and both the fortunate and unjustified elements of his varied living spaces. Once more I found myself inspired by a man who knows, beyond certainty, that he wants to paint every day and seems to have no doubt that this is his purpose.

I’d say there were difficulties with repetition in the movie’s progression if it weren’t for the brisk pacing and a merciful runtime. We progress from his childhood to what he seemed to feel was his peak in the 1970’s but are limited only to Bradley’s voice. It’s hard to say whether the perspective of his wife or admirers would’ve done anything more than distract from the core of what represents Peter Bradley; his work. Just as he explores finding the color of an apple rather than focusing on replicating it as a picture, the documentary seems to try to splash his art and allow the viewer to glean their own understanding of the man.

This is an insight into a creative mind that should not be missed, as educating as it is engaging to watch. Especially for a first time feature filmmaker, this is a testament to the power telling ones’ story can have to change their life. I’d give it four out of five stars.

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