Robert Frank’s photographs of mid-century America were hated when he first presented them in book form. Candid, grainy, and refusing to shy away from social problems that people were facing, the general consensus was that “only someone who truly hates America would produce images like these”. In the present, however, Frank’s photographs are much more popular, and Don’t Blink showcases his work and life with great love.
Similar in tone and structure to the Maysles’ 2015 film Iris, the camera follows the charmingly irritable Frank around, in his apartment and on the street, allowing him to talk about his life as he goes. This is intercut with archive footage, contact sheets and stills of his pictures, which look fantastic blown up onto a cinema screen.
The archive footage is fascinating, especially when famous rebellious figures like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg pop up casually hanging out with the equally rebellious photographer. Outtakes from an interview with Frank explaining why he doesn’t like doing interviews is played in sections across the film, which is both funny and insightful into his chosen style of photography.
The cinematography captures Frank and New York well. Ed Lachman provides additional cinematography in the film; having worked on mid-century dramas like Carol and Far From Heaven, he’s a great addition to the crew as Frank moves about New York in black and white, chatting to other important figures from his career about the lifestyle of an artist from this period.
Don’t Blink is a simple documentary that brilliantly reveals the character behind the man who took such controversial photos. Placed in the present and looking back into the past, it is a thoroughly fascinating watch to anyone interested in 20th century American art, literature and photography from this perspective.
DIRECTOR: Laura Israel
WRITER: Laura Israel
SYNOPSIS: The film examines the life of controversial photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank as he looks at life as an artist in America.