Incredibly strange from start to finish!
by Martin Hafer
I really wish the film Art and Craft had been made a few years ago before I retired from teaching. This is because in my psychology classes, I occasionally showed my students films about strange people and we’d discuss the possible diagnoses that you could give to the folks portrayed in the film. Well, in the case of Art and Craft, this really would have opened up some wonderful discussions, as the man featured in this documentary, Mark Landis is one odd character…and that’s putting is mildly!
So, what is it about Mark that makes him unusual you may ask? Well, he’s a world-class forger and has made hundreds of copies of great works of art. This in of itself is not so unusual. Hold on to your hats. Mark then donates these paintings to various art galleries across the United States! He receives no money for this and his only reward is knowing that he’s tricked the museums into hanging his fakes. In some cases, he’s even gone to extremes to put over these fakes–such as posing as a priest or a variety of other people!
At this point you are probably wondering what makes him tick–and that is what makes the film so interesting. Landis is obviously mentally ill–but not necessarily in a traditional sense. Does he have a personality disorder? Well, a true antisocial personality would do this for money and personal gain–but where is the gain? He’s been diagnosed as schizophrenic and I’ll admit that he’s odd and a tad delusional–but can such a person normally manage to convince so many people that he’s a great philanthropist?! He also reminds me quite a bit of someone with an Autism Spectrum disorder, as his social skills are incredibly poor in some ways and he has a savant-like ability to copy paintings almost exactly. Yet, interestingly, he cannot make anything really original. His one ‘original’ picture that he talks about is just a drawing of a photograph. So, he’s an amazing artist with no apparent ability to abstract or create something on his own.
But there is still far more to the story–including another individual who sure shows a lot of Obsessive-Compulsive traits–so much so that he appears to have given up his job in order to follow Landis and identify his fakes! All in all , this is one very strange documentary…but also one that you cannot stop watching because it is so strange and compelling. Additionally, some of the special features on the DVD are pretty interesting. So why an A- and not a higher score? Because although the film is interesting, it does leave a lot unsaid and unexplained–such as how Landis can afford his supplies and how he’s able to travel the country posing as a philanthropist even though he has no job. Odd but definitely worth your time.