Calvet Review

I’m always a bit skeptical going in to documentaries about artists or musicians. On one hand, there are the films that are designed for fans of the artists work, focused solely on celebrating the creative output and providing educated perspectives from critics and peers. Then there are the artist bio’s that go above and beyond, examining the work but also telling a great story with conflict, drama, and great characters (see The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Crumb). Calvet falls in the latter category, focusing less on Jean Marc Calvet’s paintings and more on the turmoil he experienced that led him down a previously unexplored path as an artist at the age of 38.

Calvet tells the story of Jean Marc Calvet, a successful French painter with a tortured past. When we first meet him, he’s recounting a story to a group of students, explaining the meaning behind one of his paintings. He recalls the times he would rush his son off to school; precious moments that he took for granted. It’s been years since he’s seen his estranged son, and he has himself to blame. After abandoning his family for an opportunity to work as a bodyguard in the US, Jean Marc spirals down a dangerous path leading towards some hardcore drug use and a lot of wasted potential. Back then he would’ve never had thought he would become a great artist, but it took losing almost everything — including his own life — to experience a moment of inspiration that would change everything. After locking himself inside an apartment for nine months and binging on crack and alcohol, Calvet resigned that he would die there, alone. It was the discovery of a bucket of paint and a fit of rage that led to him covering the walls of the cul-de-sac with an array of abstract works of art. It was then that he discovered the perfect outlet for all of that pain and regret he’d been building up inside of him for all of those years. At the age of 38, he discovered his passion for art.

Calvet is a beautifully imagined film told in a cinematic and energetic fashion. Director Dominic Allan was fortunate to be blessed with such a vibrant, animated subject who’s utterly fearless on camera and completely willing to talk about anything and everything. Calvet’s abilities as a storyteller help put the audience in the moment, bringing a level of urgency to a tale that took place years ago. While the events leading up to his discovery of his love of art are retrospective, Calvet’s attempt to contact his son is an event covered in-the-moment in the final act of the film. It’s a great mini-mystery that’s built up throughout the body of the narrative, resulting in an overall sense of tension and anxiety that really had me pulled in to the story. It’s an interesting situation considering Calvet’s past and the change he’s made in his life. He’s a complex and deep character and it’s not as clear cut as just expecting that he has the right to jump back into his son’s life. He’s as aware of this as he struggles to write a letter to his boy, keeping his emotions and feelings in check, deciding against signing off as ‘Dad’. It makes for a pretty interesting internal struggle and a great element of drama in a film that could’ve aimed to simply showcase his work through the eyes of his critics and peers. To understand his art, all we really need to know is his story. Dominic Allan handles this with grace and respect and creates a dramatic, inspirational film that captures the essence of the art and the complexity of the artist Jean Marc Calvet. — Jay C.

Calvet screens at the DOC NYC festival on Saturday November 5th at 4:30pm and Monday, November 7th at 1:45pm at the IFC Centre in NYC. For more information, visit the film’s official website.

Be sure to check out Calvet’s official website for more information and receive updates by ‘liking’ the official Facebook Page.

Upcoming screenings of Calvet:

Thursday 24/11/2011 – 18.40
Cameo Picturehouse
– Tickets on sale now online or by tel 0871 902 5723
– Q&A with Director

Friday 25/11/2011 – times TBC
Saturday 26/11/2011
Sunday 27/11/2011 – 17.00
Monday 28/11/2011
Cambridge Picturehouse
– Tickets on sale from 21st November online or at box office 0871 902 5720
– Q&A with Director on Sunday afternoon only

Saturday 26/11/2011 – 16.00
Sunday 27/11/2011 – 16.00
Queen Film Theatre
– Tickets on sale now online or at box office 028 9097 1097
– Q&A with Director (Saturday only) & Executive Producer

Sunday 04/12/2011 – 15.00 TBC
Electric Cinema, Portobello Road
– Tickets on sale from 25th November online or at box office 020 7908 9696
– Q&A with Director

Tuesday 06/12/2011 – 18.00
FACT Picturehouse
– Tickets on sale now online or at box office 0871 902 5737
– Q&A with Director

Thursday 08/12/2011 – 20.30
The Tricycle
– Tickets on sale now online or at box office 020 7328 1000
– Q&A with Director

Monday 12/12/2011 – 20.30
Greenwich Picturehouse
– Tickets on sale now online or at box office 0871 902 5732
– Q&A with Director

Tuesday 13/12/2011 – 23.00
TV broadcast on MORE4