Possibly the least likely subject to inspire two different feature-length docus within the same six-month period, American photographer William Eggleston, last seen in Michael Almereyda’s revealing “William Eggleston in the Real World,” here falls under the scrutiny of French documakers Cedric Laty and Vincent Gerard. Result, while handsomely photographed in mock-Eggleston style, ends up unsatisfying both as a portrait of the artist and as an overview of his work. Festival showings and high-end cable outlets seem the pic’s likeliest destinations.
Admittedly, the laconic, taciturn and often inscrutable Eggleston is hardly a documentarian’s dream, making more difficult the already nigh-impossible task of capturing an artist’s internal creative processes onscreen. Still, whereas Almereyda’s pic seemed to get as close as it could to Eggleston the artist and Eggleston the man (including some almost too-intimate moments of personal confession), the 12 chapters of “By the Ways” feel distant and opaque, with Laty and Gerard’s Egglestonlike cinematic compositions taking precedence over images of the photographer’s own work — and vaporous comments from a raft of celebrity admirers (including Dennis Hopper and David Byrne) taking up nearly as much screen time as footage of Eggleston himself.