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IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL

Henry Darger, infamous outsider artist, was a hospital janitor who wrote and illustrated a 15,000-page novel, In the Realms of the Unreal, that revolved around the seven Vivian Girls and their crusade against evil child enslavers. He also wrote an 8000-page unfinished sequel and a voluminous autobiography, and he cut out hundreds of pictures of little girls. Jessica Yuís documentary explores Dargerís life and work, from his institutionalized childhood to his reclusive, prolific adulthood, with lovely pans of his paintings and intimate shots of his workspace ó the cracked paints, pencil boxes, ink pots, and cutouts. His paintings, all beautifully colored and composed with sophistication, feature girls, often naked and often with little penises, sometimes frolicking in flowered meadows, sometimes eviscerated, crucified, or roped to trees. Yu refuses to acknowledge Dargerís more sinister aspect (leaving you to wonder what she could be thinking); her goal is to explore his imagination, and she does so with great success. One feels reluctant to call his daytime life in menial labor real when his realms feel so much more richly lived. (81 minutes)

BY NINA MACLAUGHLIN

Issue Date: January 14 - 20, 2005
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