On Film: JFilm continues with chronicle of a 'Mad Man'

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' Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

Bert Stern turned the Great Pyramid of Giza upside down in a martini glass for Smirnoff and pretty much did the same to the advertising and photography worlds, not to mention his life.

He photographed Marilyn Monroe in her last sittings in 1962 and fell under her spell. The blond bombshell waved off his attempt to kiss her, but he acknowledges, "I did think if she had said let's go off to the desert together, I would've jumped in the car with her and driven away."

Mr. Stern is the man who loved women -- he considers documentary maker Shannah Laumeister his muse and she calls him her mentor -- and his desire and adoration were evident in his images.

Ms. Laumeister chronicles Mr. Stern's rise from the mail room of Look magazine to a man who ushered in a new age of advertising and fashion photography, and made the landmark film "Jazz on a Summer's Day." He also perfected celebrity portraits, whether of smoldering Liz and Dick during "Cleopatra," Julie Andrews in elegant black and white, or a "Lolita" poster dominated by luscious red colors and for which he ignored the instructions given to him.

Like a Hollywood story, though, he crashed when he became hooked on amphetamines and his marriage to ballerina Allegra Kent ("I loved her more than the children") fell apart. Mr. Stern's relationship with those children remains something of a mystery in this movie.

The two daughters are shown briefly but the son, Bret, is never mentioned again. Are they estranged or did Bret not care to weigh in on Bert? A more objective, removed documentary maker would have given the audience some hint about that; of course a more objective filmmaker might not have been given this access.

Mr. Stern, a blazingly brilliant and creative pioneer and provocateur, shaped how the world saw products and people and now, at 83, muses, "I shouldn't have been so happy so young. I should've saved it for now. Now, I should be happy, when I need it."

No MPAA rating but R in nature for nudity, drug references.


First Published April 18, 2013 4:00 AM


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