HEADS UP – LAST 3 DAYS !! at the FILM FORUM, OCT 31 – NOV 13, 2012



GREGORY CREWDSON, left, on location.

these past 2 weeks, NEW YORK CITY has seen a lot of tragedy, damage, and loss, due to extreme Hurricane Sandy’s rampage.

culturally speaking, specifically in the art world – probably the biggest loss – was the bad luck timing of this film’s – New York City opening run.

GREGORY CREWDSON: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS, ironically also a film of loss, pivoting on the natural downward spiral that is found in the unending cycle of human, geographic, and economic erosion, even touching on the inevitable degrading of the infra-structure of small town America circa 1940 – is a film that shouldn’t be missed on any account, but which also took on a more poignant local meaning, in the aftermath of Sandy’s path – yet, which lost its biggest play for gathering key audience momentum . . . due to the storm’s complete shutdown of the city.

bad timing to the max.

talk about real-world bad luck . . echoing the ‘down-on-your-luck’ ethos of the work !!

the reviews that managed to surface in the mainstream press, didn’t help.

the worst of the lot, was that dumb idiot chick in the NEW YORK POST, one FARRAN SMITH NEHME, whose under-educated and absolutely dreadful scribble – makes you wonder if she even saw the film. and if she actually did sit herself through an advance press screening – she still didn’t see it. what’s wrong with people, especially the ones who are supposed to telegraph the news.

one: even though it is a documentary – it is an astonishing narrative, and tells a wonderful story. it’s definitely NOT just all about the “astonishing amounts of labor and time” that go into the production of Crewdson’s work, though that in itself is a great reveal . . .

but more important, as to her last sentence . . . “Director Ben Shapiro keeps focus entirely on work, leaving Crewdson himself an enigma.” . . . this is SO ridiculous, and off-base, that all I could think of, besides being happy to be alive, and living on high ground – was, when would my Sandy-downed internet server gonna come back online, so I could refute this garbage, and set the record straight.

GREGORY CREWDSON; BRIEF ENCOUNTERS . . . is the most wonderfully, yet easy-going articulate portrait of an artist I have ever seen, and the artist himself is grounded and articulate to boot.
enigma, NOT !!

no, it’s not all about the work, the “SPEEDIES”, anybody ?!! though it’s obvious GREGORY CREWDSON is all about the work, and it’s a great piece of cinematic storytelling, esp great to be seen on a big screen, as to how it all comes about.

thank you BEN SHAPIRO . . . who produced, directed and PHOTOGRAPHED this film, and who followed Mr. Crewdson around for quite a period of time and, so the film includes, therefore . . . many history-making archival passages.

so, drop everything and go see it – on the big screen, here in NYC at least – during the next 2 days.

it’s the real deal.

I wasn’t that big a fan of Crewdson’s work before, but for sure, I am now.

the real magic in the film, and in the work is just how truly evocative . . . Crewdson’s photographs are. whether filmed on actual locale or created from the ground-up on a ‘production’ set .. we are provoked to see and feel the unspoken fear and sadness that lives in all of us. it’s funny-sad, but quite deeply true – how so much of life as we live it, is not about what we have, or have gained, but what we have lost.

somewhere along the way, in our personal lives, and somewhere along the way, as time passes, and specifically bypasses – the American small town ethos of the 40s, as the metaphor, and the reality.
and the inevitable future.
the only sureness is: all things will change.

a lot of this visual/emotional power comes from how Gregory Crewdson deeply understands his ‘story’ . . . and the detail-oriented vision with which he infuses what is still, even after the all the technical work – just one single frame, a still photograph. he says somewhere along the way that “every artist has one story that they tell over and over” . . . til they get it right.

one of the ways he gets it right, is simply through the use of man-made lighting.
on location, he shoots at twilight, when there is just that small window of camera time available to catch the production’s not day not night, but eerie ‘fictional’ light of an atmosphere, not so much charged, as so . . . incandescently imbued of the unknown. the photographs that result take ‘place’ and makes it: mystery.
without the viewer quite knowing why, at least until you see this film . . .

it’s that ‘captured’ unreal light that is the real ‘fiction’ and secret of these photographs. it’s simply ‘manipulated’ or ‘fabricated’ light as much as any other element – that really drives the scene. and tugs at your emotions. as the viewer, you can’t quite put your finger on the source, what is doing you in. and then the fog truck is called upon to roll through the composed scenario, just before the shutter clicks.
and you get it.

so yes. yes, for the power of great movies. profound photographs. enchanting story-telling, and behind-the-scene docs !!

take a pick-up truck spewing man-made FOG, add some cinematic lighting, and put to scenes of psychologically tinged reality, and you understand that Gregory Crewdson’s photographs are more like paintings, than you could have ever first imagined.

and nowhere near movies, which is the first impression.

watch the trailer & get more info: GREGORY CREWDSON: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

this is the media poster for the movie.

whatever was I thinking, not using this image for the initial review, after a storm that flooded a great swath of this city and its environs.

well, actually the flood that Sandy unleashed was NOT like this . . . at all. it was more like a dirty mud-filled sucker punch that had no prettiness to it, at all.

and likewise, even though this image, which I guess was picked for its obvious poster-grade mass audience common denominator graphic punch – stands not for the majority of Crewdson’s work, but interestingly more speaks to how . . . he LEFT this way-too surreal, way-too obvious, way-too-easy-to-read brand of visual ‘fiction’ behind. and for the better.

in fact you could say a really compelling subtext of the film is actually how it follows the evolution of the work back and forth as time goes on, and reveals Mr. Crewdson’s evolving artistic decision-making. and his, finally – deeply gathered ability to distill a ‘vision’ – that is so pure and perfect – that it makes for a deeply singular and profound body of work.

it’s like . . . he had several aesthetic paths, esp once he got with the big bucks, to tell his story. and he pared down the surreal, and upped the Walker Evans.

it’s interesting therefore to watch how in touch he is with himself, and what he wants to say . . . about the world around him, and the great dark mystery of it all. he doesn’t need to discuss it, it’s just that ‘key’ that he left this garish hyper-surrealism layering behind, and concentrated on the classicism and silence of less ‘mentally’ composed scenes.
it’s …. feeling .. . stripped down, not amped up, that is WORKING here.

it’s really all about the lighting and the details, not a super-imposed ‘drama’. we aren’t distracted by a ‘thriller’ of a pictorial narrative that we can read with our minds, as much as we are led down a path – into ourselves. the deep secrets, the loss and fear – beneath the surface. we don’t need over-the-top surrealism, to bring it all home, just a little attention to detail, a grimy window, a dirty thrift-shop lamp, a local native . . . and the unseen, but ever intuited . . . . pass of the fog.

this is the real genius of Gregory Crewdson.