I recently watched Jay Myself, a documentary film about the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist, Jay Maisel, who, in February 2015 after forty-eight years, begrudgingly sold his home—the 35,000 square-foot, 100-year- old landmark building in Manhattan known simply as “The Bank.” Sold for over 50 million dollars, it was the largest private real estate deal in the history of New York City.
Through the intimate lens of filmmaker and Jay’s protégé, noted artist and photographer Stephen Wilkes, the viewer is taken on a remarkable journey through Maisel’s life as an artist, mentor and man; a man grappling with time, life, change and the end of an era in New York City.
Part of what’s so fantastic about the film is how the building itself serves as a vehicle to get to know the artist. Maisel sees beauty everywhere he goes: not only through his camera lens, but in everyday objects. Each room in the building is home to various items he’s been collecting throughout his lifetime, providing viewers with tangible evidence of what inspires an individual that sees the world as a playground of inspiration. So copious are his collections, it takes him six months to pack up and a bill of approximately $200,000 to transport the 35 truck loads.
The filmmaking decisions Wilkes makes also gives the documentary a unique edge. The film is about Maisel, but it’s told via his relationship with the filmmaker. Watching the documentary, viewers are privy not only to their close relationship, but Wilkes’ process and thoughts as he makes the film. He includes footage of conversations he and Maisel have about what the film will entail, as well as clips that feel like behind-the-scenes footage most filmmakers relegate to supplementary extras.
Jay Myself opened at Film Forum in New York City July 31, 2019. Make sure to stay for the post-credit audio.