"Bert Stern: Original Madman": A Pioneer of Famous-Naked-Lady Photography

Having come up through Look magazine with Stanley Kubrick, whom he recalls, not unapprovingly, as "like his movies: mean, cruel, and finding weaknesses in people," Bert Stern later made the iconic photo of lollipop'd Sue Lyon in heart-shaped shades that became the poster for Lolita. "He could see the woman in the little girl," one female acquaintance recalls of Stern, not unapprovingly, and this lethargic hagiography, produced and directed by Stern's self-described soulmate, Shannah Laumeister, one of his muses since age 13, seems wholly to concur. The latest in a long parade of limp couture-chronicle documentaries, Laumeister's Bert Stern: Original Madman does supply sufficient visual evidence of how the girl-crazy shutterbug shook up the mid-'60s ad industry, but it's hampered by the subject's own palpable reluctance to recount his life story. He has an eye for the ladies, all right — roving all the way from his famous Marilyn Monroe nudes to the Internet-crashing takeoffs on same with Lindsay Lohan — but can't seem to be bothered to discuss it. Worse, the film is at times technically inept, which doesn't suit a picture about a maker of pictures, yet Laumeister proceeds as if candid access is all that really matters. Tellingly implying dullness, Stern's somnolent narration sums up their collaboration here like so: "I shot you for 20 years, then you turned around and shot me."

 
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