The famously reclusive and curmudgeonly photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank smiles throughout the documentary Don't Blink - Robert Frank, as if he's having a good time with Laura Israel, a longtime assistant who deigned to make a film about him. When she asked, the Swiss-born artist did not say no.
In distinct stages marked by evocative music (Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, subjects of his 1972 Cocksucker Blues, and more), the film moves through his making of The Americans, the iconic photo-book of the 1950's, its poetic, sainted "road" essence affirmed in Jack Kerouac's introduction, the filming of Pull My Daisy, featuring Kerouac's narration and starring Larry Rivers, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Delphine Seyrig, Alice Neel, Milo O'Shea, and his son Pablo, the little boy.
Difficult moments loom large: his daughter Andrea's death in a plane crash, and Pablo's worsening depression and eventual suicide.
A fixture of the mid to late century downtown scene, Frank documented it in photographs and on film, forming a body of work warranting a long look, so "don't blink" may be good advice, what a photographer might say to his subject, or what you won't want to do viewing the images collaged so richly in this movie. Last weekend at the New York Film Festival premiere, Alice Tully Hall was packed. Introduced from the audience, beside June Leaf, he waved shyly to the crowd, a reluctant superstar.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.