I sat down recently to watch two documentaries on the photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, who died a little over a year ago at the age of 94. One film (Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank, 2019) meandered a bit, but captured more of the temperament of the photographer. The other movie (Don’t Blink, 2017) was more frenetic, (almost like one of Robert Frank’s own films), and the music by the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Johnny Thunders, The Kills, Yo Lo Tengo, and others helped move it along. They both covered much of the same ground, but Don’t Blink relied on solid editing to create a more cohesive film.

Swiss-born Frank is best known for his 1958 book The Americans. It was not critically well received when first released, but like all great works of art it has aged well. The Americans is now considered by many to be the best book of photography ever and continues to be highly influential in the world of photography. Frank hung out with the beat generation and counterculture, and he created films around the poets of the day such as Ginsburg and Kerouac. He was also commissioned by the Rolling Stones to create a film and tour documentary after their release of Exile on Main Street. Frank delivered the film, but it rarely sees the light of day. Mick Jagger said, “It’s a fucking good film, Robert–but if it’s shown in America, we’ll never be allowed in the country again.”

Both films are a look at a true artist who never stays in one place with his photography or film. He pushes boundaries, grows, and changes. Both films cover Frank’s life as an artist, but if I had to choose one, I’d suggest Don’t Blink as the better of the two.

Leaving Home, Coming Home can be viewed on Amazon for free if you’re a Prime member, and Don’t Blink is available by disc on Netflix and can be watched on Amazon for a whopping ninety-nine cents.

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