is a look at the visceral imagery of Alex Grey that is found
in his museum/shrine called "The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors".
If you are unfamiliar with the images of Alex Grey, trying
to explain them is virtually impossible, as he uses the
human body to create works of surreal art unlike anyone
I have ever seen. (To see what I mean, look at some of the
This documentary basically looks at all the paintings and artwork in the Chapel in depth, and allows Alex Grey to explain the meaning of the art and how he came up with it. Done in a specific path, the documentary progresses from the external art of the human form to the internal art of the human search for enlightenment to a final art showcasing the desire to purify the evil of the earth.
The information on how Alex Grey thought of these different art pieces is very impressive. The dialogue and concepts fit the overall imagery of the piece, giving the content a harmonious unity. However, the biggest concern that plagued me throughout watching this documentary is: who is the audience?
a lot of documentaries and tend to find many of them engrossing
because they explore an element of the world that I might
not be as aware of. And, as I was unfamiliar with Alex Grey's
artwork prior to watching this documentary, I was quite
looking forward viewing this film. However, while I did
find CoSM to be interesting and at times compelling,
I did not find it terribly engrossing. This is largely because
we always feel as though we are on a tour directly from
Alex Grey, with the entirety of the visual information coming
from shots of Alex in front of a painting and moving close
ups of the painting he's describing. Tours, by their nature,
are interesting but not gripping to anyone who isn't already
a big fan of whatever their being taken on a tour of. Additionally,
tours are a one-man (or one-woman) show, which, again, limits
their overall sustaining interest value.
fans of his art and especially those who have been to the
Chapel of Mirrors will be very interested to see how the
artist's intent lined up with their perception of the art.
Because of this, CoSM would make a wonderful film
to be shown at the end of a tour of the Chapel of Mirrors
or perhaps a good film to be shown on A&E.
in its current state, folks who are not familiar with Alex
Grey's artwork, are going to find it much more difficult
to be absorbed by this film.
these problems and give the film a wider appeal, there would
need to be some additional elements to make the documentary
feel more like a documentary and less like a beautifully
photographed guided tour. An opening interview with an art
historian explaining Alex Grey's impact on the world of
art would allow unfamiliar viewers to get into the right
headspace. Interviews with his wife would allow an additional
perspective of his work that is not coming straight from
his mouth, especially since some of her work is in the exhibit
and because her inspiration led him to create the Chapel
in the first place. Finally, interviews with art lovers
who've been to this "Chapel" would give additional
interest to the viewer of how this art impacts everyday
Visually, CoSM is beautiful. The exposure settings on the DVX100 that was used were right on the money, and the use of cranes to shoot beautiful close-ups of the artwork was lovely. The editing was quite tight, with a nice array of dissolves at appropriate times. There were a couple of gorgeous lighting scenes with Alex standing in front of his artwork and light playing across his body to create a beautiful 3-dimensional silhouette.
were really only two small issues in the visual look department,
and these were simply editing choices. The first occurred
during one of Alex's monologues later in the film, in which
he was describing how he originated one of his paintings.
During it, he was trying to find the right words to describe
the process, and the editor chose to use jump-cuts between
each of the final words he chose. I've seen some documentaries
that use this sort of jump-cut technique in interviews,
and it works for documentaries that are hand-held and less
polished than this documentary. Because of the polish of
the documentary, it needs a more polished transition. A
less jarring way to do this is to make a short dissolve
between each jump cut or to cut to another shot of the painting
while you splice together the words as narration.
The final small issue occurred at transition places throughout the movie where the footage would fade to black and the audio would fade out. Due to the fact that these transitions came after Alex Grey concluded a room and because the black silence lasted for five to ten seconds, there were many times that you thought the film was actually over. Shortening these transition spaces will help with this issue a lot.