Film Review: "Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters"

"Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters"

Directed by Ben Shapiro - NOW PLAYING at Film Forum, NYC

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer from Benjamin Shapiro on Vimeo.

There are no actual encounters, in this documentary about Gregory Crewdson’s work on Beneath the Roses - his five year project of large scale color photographs of small town scenarios. Shot in a working class area of Massachusetts, Director, Ben Shapiro, spent 10 years making this film. It explores the working methods of Mr. Crewdson, as he obsessively crafts scenes of convincing naturalism and ordinariness with elaborate and meticulous attention to detail.

There is an overriding air of melancholy, stillness, and isolation which invokes the mood of much of the work of Edward Hopper. One feels a voyeuristic sense of witnessing moments of solemn introspection. There is no apparent interaction between the characters - each inhabiting their own world, but we are drawn into that world by the rich layering of revealing small details - the broken windows, and strewn objects which depict a world of downtrodden shabbiness; the moody lighting which illuminates the characters with the harsh glow of a bare bulb emphasizes their solitude. Ben Shapiro films, without assistants, as he chronicles the process of Mr. Crewdson, who oversees a vast movie crew as he blocks off streets, turns off street lights, and micromanages entire sections of the community. He uses mostly local talent, to great effect, by elevating these marginalized people and neighborhoods with poetry, empathy, and affection. He does not give us any information about these tableaux, but implies a world of inner landscapes.

The only brief encounter is with Mr. Crewdson himself. We do not learn very much about him personally, or what animates his art, beyond his background - he grew up in Brooklyn; he is the son of a psychiatrist who saw patients in his basement office; he briefly played in his own band; and he was influenced by David Lynch and Laurie Simmons.

- Belle McIntyre

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