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DVD Review / "Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens"

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  October 26, 2008 10:24 AM

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Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz was in Boston in 2006 promoting her book,
"A Photographer's Life 1990-2005"   Globe Staff File Photo / Suzanne Kreiter

Fame is the name of her game

By Mark Feeney
Globe Staff

"Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens" is, in effect, an infomercial. To be sure, it's an infomercial for a quality product. Leibovitz has long been the world's most celebrated celebrity photographer. But it's still an infomercial - for a family firm, as it were. The documentary, which aired on PBS's "American Masters" in January 2007, was written, photographed, and directed by Barbara Leibovitz, Annie's sister.

The documentary makes no real effort to separate Leibovitz's artistry (which is large) from her celebrity (which is vast). The closest thing to serious commentary comes when photography critic Vicki Goldberg remarks, "People do talk about . . . [Leibovitz's] story portraits. It's a story that's one sentence long. I really do think of them mostly as one-liners."

More representative is Hillary Rodham Clinton saying Leibovitz "has been a major chronicler of our country, what we care about, what we think about." Presumably, she was interviewed because Leibovitz has photographed her, though Clinton has nothing insightful to say about the experience (unlike Keith Richards and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who are among many, many famous talking heads in the documentary).

In addition to hearing from sitters and colleagues, the documentary shows Leibovitz shooting Kirsten Dunst in Versailles, George Clooney and Julia Roberts in New York, the Donald Trumps in Palm Beach, and so on. It's all quite glamorous and interesting, if also kind of empty. Minus the A-list names, and reverential tone, you might think you were watching something on E!

Extras: Additional interview footage, trailer (Warner, $19.98). In stores Tuesday.

Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz in a Boston hotel room in 2006.
Globe Staff File Photo / Suzanne Kreiter
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