Vague Visages’ Make Me Famous review contains minor spoilers. Brian Vincent’s 2021 documentary features Edward Brezinski, David McDermott and Marguerite Van Cook. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
Make Me Famous, the feature debut from Juilliard alum Brian Vincent, examines the cyclical nature of art world power dynamics. On a macro level, the documentary covers a specific time and place: the East Village of early 80s Manhattan. On a micro scale, however, Vincent investigates the interior world of the late Edward Brezinski — a gay American artist with a “mania to be noticed.” Make Me Famous is a perceptive film about Reagan-era business strategies that elevated one group of creative gamblers and led others to their graves.
Vincent, who works as his own editor, enlivens Make Me Famous with loads of home video footage and talking heads. He establishes Brezinski’s connection to the now-famous American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat while consistently reinforcing the subject’s edgy persona and lack of social polish. This is tight, economical exposition: Brezinski desires fame and wealth (and has the talent to achieve his goals) but works outside a 3rd Street collective for the sake of creative independence. The subject’s early-80s antics, as detailed in Make Me Famous, remind of a modern Big Apple artist such as Josephine Decker, who famously interrupted a 2010 Marina Abramović show at the Museum of Modern Art. Whereas such an act now immediately translates to social media clout, it had the opposite effect for starving NYC artists forty years ago, certainly those who actively trolled potential patrons, such as Annina Nosei — the Italian-American art dealer who “discovered” Basquiat.
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A plethora of wild anecdotes boost Make Me Famous’ middle section and prep the audience for a surprising twist. Vincent, with all his Brezinski myth-building, wisely draws a connection to changing styles and attitudes in early 80s New York. As the subject aloofly builds his brand, by hosting prominent industry names at his apartment (“The Magic Gallery”), he picks up on trends and positions himself as the true outcast within this particular bande à part. It’s a story of self-destruction and artistic freedom, a tale of alcoholism and half-assed marketing strategies. Oh, what could’ve been if Brezinski hadn’t imploded so many opportunities. But that’s all part of the game, all part of the myth-making. Unfortunately, as Vincent reminds the audience in Make Me Famous, Brezinski — a man obsessed with the past — seemed to be living in Bob Dylan’s East Village, rather than adapting to a changing scene, one influenced by MTV and mixed media.
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Make Me Famous, a valuable addition to the library of American New Wave documentaries, maintains an upbeat tone until Vincent drops a couple truth bombs on the audience. In one second-half chapter, AIDS and heroin wipe out the subject’s inner circle during the 80s. And in a final act sequence, an accomplished artist flippantly recalls why he didn’t offer Brezinski financial assistance when the man needed it most — a petty form of passive-aggressive behavior amongst peers that’s directly connected to bourgeois morality and community gatekeeping. Part of me, however, feels that Brezinski calculated every move back in the 80s, even down to a fateful trip to the French Riviera. Was that a final chapter or a new beginning? Google “Brezinski New York exhibit” and you’ll find out.
Make Me Famous released theatrically in June 2023.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.
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