Beauty is Embarrassing
by: Lorena Sander
Director Neil Berkeley honors his subject in oxymoronic fashion – Beauty is Embarrassing is an entertaining documentary about Wayne White. While other portrait documentaries want the audience to find hope by confronting it with triumph over despair (I am Caroline Parker) or by marveling at the impact of creative genius against repression (Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry), Beauty is Embarrassing shows, straightforwardly, the incandescent joy at the heart of creation.
The documentary is, for all intents and purposes, a monographic study on the life and times of Wayne White. Its biggest strength is that it has a subject that lives by the maxim that entertainment and beauty are serious pursuits, and who is grateful for his roots while mining their hypocrisies for material. While the movie may fail in exploring White’s techniques or provide the audience with insights on his impact on the contemporary art scene, Berkeley had remarkable access to the people and places that made White the person and artist he is – a master animator, a cheeky puppeteer, an endearingly profane poet, a loving husband and a hovering dad. For imprintees from the generation that watched Pee Wee’s Playhouse in its original run, it is a peek backstage, and the film succeeds in putting it in context. Most importantly, the film gives its audience an alternative to the cliché of the tortured artist. Berkeley lets its subject be an entertainer (profanity, absurdity, and all) who had the guts to try, always on the lookout for audiences to be dazzled.
All images from WayneWhiteArt.com