Jay Myself, directed by Stephen Wilkes, is a unique and interesting portrait of photographer and artist Jay Maisel. Paying homage to his mentor, Wilkes tells Maisel’s story with an intimate feel, creating a documentary that is equal parts information, entertainment, and art.
Rather than making a typical biographical documentary of Maisel, Wilkes focuses on a major event in his life — Maisel moving out of the building in which he has lived and built up an unusual collection for over forty years. With this, Wilkes allows Maisel to share anecdotes, both about the meaning of the building to him and the significance of some of the objects in his collection, telling the story of Maisel’s career indirectly.
Additionally, this infuses a great deal of emotion into the film. The result feels like a much more personal tribute than a general biographical documentary, and as a result, it is easy to get drawn into Maisel’s world. His story, of living in a single place for most of his life, is one that is easy to which it is easy to connect for many people, even if we are not in this same situation.
Over the course of the movie, we get a glimpse of Maisel’s personality and who he is as a person. He is certainly a very compelling subject for a documentary. Although the film certainly makes sure that you will admire Maisel for his work by the end, great care is taken to make sure his humble and down-to-earth personality is highlighted. As such, Maisel feels approachable and likable.
The movie is also quite well-paced. Clocking in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, this film really has no time to waste. Wilkes was successful in finding a rhythm for his movie, keeping it entertaining both visually and in terms of story. Of course, Maisel’s life is already fascinating, and that goes a very long way, but Wilkes is able to take it even further.
Visually, the film lives up to the expectations you would have. Not only is the movie about a photographer — it is also directed by a photographer, so you would expect nothing less than gorgeousness, and that is exactly what you get. So many of the compositions in the film are pristine and wonderful to look at, but the movie also manages to get the story across in a satisfying way.
The editing in the film is very good too. Wilkes truly does an amazing job of assembling his story elements in a way that is compelling and aesthetically-appealing. The movie is meant to be art just as much as a tribute to Maisel, and somehow, it succeeds at doing both. The score, with heavy jazz influence, is great as well, pushing along the film’s pacing and enjoyability.
Jay Myself is perhaps one of the most subdued documentaries about art to ever come out, and yet, it also manages to look and feel gorgeous. Any avid documentary-watcher will surely want to check this out, as your eyes will be glued to the screen the whole time.
Jay Myself opens in theaters on July 31.