True is The sprayer from Zurich turned out a bit tame for the constant rebel against the system, yet it sums up Harald Naegeli’s nature, attitude and art well. This swan song of aging punk – mentally, not necessarily visual – makes him sympathetic with his relaxed manner and the fact that even with over 80 years of age he annoys his haters and the authorities out of pure conviction. On the other hand, he is also vulnerable and nostalgic, which director Nathalie David captures well. An unexcited portrait of a cult figure in the city of Zurich who will die – not like their spray paints – will not disappear from the cityscape anytime soon.
Harald Naegeli is a rare commodity in the field of art: He seems to like his art, surrounds himself with it and also thinks that it improves existing structures. Many other artists suffer from Art Imposter Syndrome and think they are not good enough. Naegeli never seemed to die. This serenity, which the artist also shows in Nathalie David’s documentary film, makes Naegeli even more interesting. The inevitably most charming thing about him, however, is how he annoyed his hater and the authorities for decades – and that out of conviction.
But behind his relaxed manner, a nostalgia can be discerned. Although he seems satisfied with his life and, according to his own statements, does not fear death, he still tries to hide a certain sadness. He seems like a kind of melancholy old punk, especially with the wisdom with which he strikes around here. “The illness is a signal that you have to go,” says the sick man. This facet of Naegeli, the aging of an ideological artist, a punk, is captured beautifully by director Nathalie David.
In this documentary she mixes interviews with Naegeli and a few “opponents” and friends, archive recordings and e-mails that have been sent over time. General is The sprayer from Zurich a rather cautiously staged documentary that could have used a little more conflict, Naegeli’s active time as a sprayer was very turbulent and full of conflict. Instead, the filmmaker opted for a calm portrait of the artist. So it may not offend the way the artist did and does this, but it still sums up his ideology and his essence well.