Beauty and the Bloodshed Full Review – Nan Goldin Takes on Big Pharma | movie

tpart of the Sackler family behind the Purdue Pharma company became famous for its addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, which blighted the lives of countless Americans, while the Sackler culture laundered its colossal profits with vapid museum donations. There was hardly a museum in any first world capital that did not salute their narcissism with a “Sackler Wing” or “Sackler Courtyard.” Their story was first told by New Yorker investigative journalist Patrick Radon Keefe in his book Empire of Pain.

Purdue’s sinister genius lies not in science, pharmaceuticals or medicine, but in marketing. It’s not that they invented opioids; they have existed in various forms, but have long been considered too dangerous for anything but the most extreme pain treatment or terminal palliative care; Purdue simply convinced the American medical profession to prescribe them in pill form for much milder cases. The agony of the nation’s addiction was then recycled into art world prestige.

Now director Laura Poitras, with a film that won a Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, approaches this harrowing story from the perspective of the Sackler family’s most famous victim and unwitting beneficiary. Artist and photographer Nan Goldin had prestigious works exhibited in many galleries that had received Sackler dollars. When she became addicted to OxyContin, Goldin made it her business to lead a direct-action campaign, disrupting galleries including the Guggenheim and the Met with spectacular protests, throwing thousands of fake prescriptions into the quiet spaces of galleries, and dumping dozens of fake pill bottles into gushing fountains and water fountains. facilities. Protesters faced sinister surveillance and intimidation campaigns that the Sacklers denied knowledge of.

Poitras shows that these protests are indeed Goldin’s magnum opus: her entire life has led to this moment of passionate expression, this inspired situationist gesture that fuses the personal and the political. OxyContin preyed on the troubled and the vulnerable, and Goldin’s family was filled with pain. A depressed older sister has taken her own life (the title is taken from a medical report that reports her agonized words about existence). Goldin herself was a victim of abuse and a recovering drug addict. Her brilliant and heartbreakingly revealing photographs and ‘slideshows’ depict the world of underground artists and the LGBT community; she was inspired by the filmmakers and inspired them in turn. Poitras’ film talks about her friendship with John Waters (but, oddly, not Jim Jarmusch, who is clearly visible in a number of shots). Nor does Poitras mention Claire Denis, who dedicated her film Vendredi Soir to Goldin. Much of the Act Up campaign of the 1980s was documented by Goldin, which inspired her Sackler protests.

Her masterpiece was unveiled in galleries around the world: Pain Protests. Goldin’s campaign group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now held thrillingly subversive guerilla-style events that were of course documented on social media. The images she created and disseminated live were fascinating: confrontational art, protest art, autofictional art, all fused together in these events, which did much to shame museums into removing the Sackler name and also, perhaps more importantly, to putting pressure on the Sacklers to accept this more or less meekly. It’s a kind of happy ending: but Goldin shows that there may always be more bloodshed than beauty.

All the Beauty and the Blood is out in UK cinemas on January 27.

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