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(DOC NYC ran November 6-15. Lead critic Chris Reed is there bringing you tons of coverage so stay tuned! Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

A thoroughly engaging documentary portrait of an artist I had never heard of (judge me as you will), Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack, from director Deborah Shaffer (To Be Heard) and co-director Rachel Reichman (editor on Hitchcock/Truffaut) is the perfect introduction to its subject, comprehensive in its detail and captivating in its approach. Audrey Flack (born 1931) is still very much of this world, and is our guide, her autobiographical presence supplemented by ample interviews from family, friends and colleagues. In my case, ignorance was truly bliss, as I was able to experience all of Flack’s glory for the first time, the rush of her brilliance hitting me hard.

Flack started out as a student of art, and then artist, at the height of Abstract Expressionism, yet hungered for something different, rooted as much in an understanding of the old masters as in the movements of her time. By the late 1960s/early 1970s, she was fully immersed in what would be called Photorealism – and she the only woman among the men – a style of painting that took an approach opposite to that of Abstract Expressionism, artists instead creating works inspired by photography, though with their own unique perspectives embedded in each piece. By the early 1980s, Flack tired of this, becoming, instead, a sculptor and teacher. Always, no matter the medium, she innovated, all the way through to today.

Employing a circular narrative that begins with Flack discussing a canvas she abandoned when she moved to sculpting, then returns to that canvas at the end as she prepares a new retrospective exhibit of her work, the film moves energetically from fascinating detail to detail in the cinematic space in between. The accompanying musical score provides lovely background, its melodies never obtrusive, always in concert with the story. “Human beings need art to help them deal with their mortality,” says Flack at one point. Indeed. Thanks to this wonderful tribute to her life and work, we have all the help we need.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm) is a film critic, filmmaker and longtime educator, currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Film and Moving Image at Stevenson University. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is lead film critic here at "Hammer to Nail," Associate Editor (and critic) at "Film Festival Today," host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed," and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, he is the co-host of "The Fog of Truth," a podcast devoted to documentary cinema. He has served on juries for the Annapolis Film Festival, Dallas VideoFest and Thin Line Film Festival, and moderated panels for the Annapolis Film Festival and the Maryland Film Festival.

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