2010 // USA // Jeff Malmberg // December 22, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)B - Outsider art seems to provide ripe opportunity for documentary film-making, with results ranging from ache-laden portraiture (The Cats of Mirikitani) to knotty explorations of the vagaries of the art world (My Kid Could Paint That). Although it rarely demonstrates any real cinematic liveliness and relies overmuch on the compelling character of its subject's work, Marwencol admirably balances the personal and sociopolitical dimensions of its tale. First-time director Jeff Malmberg quickly zeroes in on the questions raised by the work of miniaturist and photographer Mark Hogancamp, a traumatic brain injury survivor who has constructed an elaborate fantasy narrative about a fictional World War II-era Belgian town, populating it with dolls that stand in for his family, friends, and fears. Much of the thrill of Marwencol stems from the manner in which it sumptuously steeps us in Hogancamp's art, which evinces an astonishingly intuitive facility for both the emotional and the technical aspects of figure photography. Predictably enough, Hogancamp is eventually discovered by New York City bohemians, and tension surfaces between the comforts of fantasy and the demands of reality. While the narrative pattern Malmberg relies upon feels a bit too familiar, he nonetheless studs his film with unexpected revelations, all while maintaining a palpable wonderment at his subject's talents and resilience.