Imagine: Marina Abramović – The Ugly Duckling (4 stars)

Marina Abramović with Alan Yentob.

A fascinating film which traces the life and career of the artist while attempting to pin down her motivations and inspirations

If you were unaware of the life and work of Marina Abramović before, then you're unlikely to forget it after this latest Imagine hour. For here, we see Marina having an arrow aimed at her heart with only the strength of her co-performance artist and lover Ulay between her and certain death; over there, we see her enveloped by a snake for a piece which pays tribute to Maria Callas; and then there's the film of the Serbian brushing her hair violently, chomping on a raw onion, and whipping herself.

'Shockingly controversial' is how Imagine guru Alan Yentob describes Abramović, and it's difficult to argue with that. Of course, this being a Yentob production, the man himself is often distractedly front and centre of proceedings. Whereas other hosts would allow the camera to focus on the artist herself, we see the pair of them strolling side by side in her home and through huge sheds which house her archive, which has been logged in finite Kubrick-esque detail.

Ultimately, Marina and the diamond geezer have produced a fascinating film which traces her life and career, all the while attempting to pin down her motivations and inspirations. What's the deal with putting herself in real physical danger, and why is she so obsessed with stars and triangles? There are some answers offered, but with all true art and artists, there is something about Marina Abramović that is held at arm's length and remains teasingly unknowable.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

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