Mondays With William (NR)

Documentary 90 October 18, 2013
By Steve Erickson
Mondays with William puts some interesting twists on the Behind the Music formula, but it ultimately feels like a sanitized take on the art world. Theoretically, the documentary's subject is painter William Laga, a homeless schizophrenic obsessed with germs and bad odors, but his patron, wealthy gallery owner Marcelle Danan, gets just as much screen time. Every Monday, she picks him up and goes shopping for art supplies with him, spending as much as $900 a week on his paints and canvas. This all builds up to a successful gallery show, which earns enough money for her to take him off the street and pay rent on a studio apartment for him for a year. However, further Laga shows bomb, and William becomes less motivated to keep painting, while resisting treatment for his worsening troubles. Beebe incorporates didactic segments on the problems of homelessness and schizophrenia, but he seems to identify more with Marcelle than William. Apart from one critical remark from an interview subject, she's portrayed as positively saintly. Is it a coincidence that she's one of the film's executive producers? While the story arc is compelling, the film's final third suffers from concentrating too much on her, although it has narrative reasons for doing so. It never asks whether Marcelle would be just as enamored of an equally talented artist who's perfectly sane-- the question of exploitation (perhaps mutual) is never explored.
Steve Beebe

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