Throughout her interviews in Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress And The Tangerine, iconic 96-year-old Paris-born artist Louise Bourgeois repeatedly struggles for the right words to explain her relationship to art. Her English is impeccable; her second language isn't a barrier, except to the degree that language itself is at fault. "You are to read between the lines when I talk," she eventually grouses, over one request for clarification. Given her beliefs about the relationship between art and the unconscious, forcing her ideas into mere clumsy words is a burden.


Nonetheless, Louise Bourgeois is absorbing, largely because of Bourgeois' striking art, prickly personality, and assured intensity. When she describes sculpture as "a fight with your notion of what you need," or announces that the government shouldn't support art because art is about facing unconscious connections, she seems to be talking around ideas rather than pinpointing them, but her passion and the strength of her views come through clearly. Late director Marion Cajori and her partner Amei Wallach assembled the film from a wide selection of sources: interviews in Bourgeois' studio in the '90s, vintage footage from Bourgeois' lengthy career, and recent talking-head interviews with Bourgeois intimates and admirers all circle the difficulty of Bourgeois' dreamlike sculptures. But most keenly, the filmmakers fill their documentary with richly lit, loving visual explorations of those sculptures, from gaunt, simple abstract figures to complicated, room-size installations that assemble multimedia artifacts into haunting dreamscapes.

Louise Bourgeois is neither linear nor narrative; it jumps around in ways that aren't always helpful, and assumes (or dismisses the importance of) some familiarity with Bourgeois' career history, her personal life, and her place in New York's artistic pantheon. But as a portrait of the artist and her work, it's endlessly striking, a catalog of visual accomplishments that speak for themselves.