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James A. Stewart
DVD Verdict, August 2010

The romance comics blonde is the Roy Lichtenstein image you’re probably most familiar with, the one you’ve seen on prints and postcards. As it opens, Roy Lichtenstein shows the Christie’s sale of one of those paintings, a panel of a couple kissing that fetched more than $5 million in bidding.

The documentary aims to convince you that Lichtenstein, the pop art parodist, was a lot more. After starting off with “a cubist-inspired impressionist style” in the Fifties, Lichtenstein became fascinated with advertising, gadgets, and pop culture. His works from the Sixties riff off that culture, from a famous Steve Roper comic strip panel to an ad for Mount Airy Lodge, a Poconos resort. The small images become large, often with the printing dots blown up for an especially out-of-place touch.

Roy Lichtenstein touches on the comic book era of his life, but goes on to show later works—Picasso parodies and murals—that illustrate how he developed as an artist. It shows him at work, both on a canvas that recreates a comic book frame and on a large-scale mural at an art gallery.

There are plenty of talking heads telling you that Lichtenstein is a great artist who kept evolving until his death in 1997. However, you’ll have to see this for yourself. Fortunately, there’s lots of the artist’s work shown in the documentary and in an accompanying gallery to convince you. A booklet provides a brief bio of Lichtenstein in both English and German.

The picture and sound quality is mostly good, although there’s some aging film in there. In addition to Lichtenstein’s work, the documentary (briefly) covers the Sixties art scene in New York with black-and-white photos and film.

What it does is provide a good introduction to an artist you already know a little about, showing viewers more dimensions to his work than they’ve previously thought about.

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