Celebrated filmmaker and photographer Cheryl Dunn turns her lens on the pioneers and masters of New York street photography. Dunn profiles artists spanning six decades, including Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark, Jill Freedman, Jeff Mermelstein and Martha Cooper, revealing that these shooters are as colourful and unique as the subjects they’ve relentlessly documented. The film is a definitive look at the iconic visionaries of this often imitated art form.
Dunn has sculpted a love letter to street photography and the innovators of the art form that have been publishing and exhibiting their work for decades. The people interviewed here are the heavy hitters of the scene and truly do represent the cream of the crop. The issue with the film comes in the very dense amount of information provided, that feels denser with the standard seated interview delivery of the subject matter. This leads the film to dry spells that will affect those that are not fascinated by the photography on display. The inclusion of a decent soundtrack here a bit during these stretches, though.
A lot of the photos displayed here are gorgeously rendered, intimate pictures of everyday life on the street, though the film does sway a bit into the whole ‘celebrity’ photo phenomenon, as well. With Dunn being a photographer herself, the photos and the film overall are staged and mounted extremely well once you get past the abundance of talking heads. (Kirk Haviland)
Director Cheryl Dunn will conduct a Skype Q&A following the 9:00pm screening on Tuesday, March 4th.
La Maison De La Radio
This month’s Doc Soup Selection (screening at 6:30 and 9:15 on Wednesday and 6:45pm on Thursday) has an interesting core conceit with very little idea what to do with it, leading to a film of such specialized interest that it almost becomes hard to recommend it to its intended audience.
A stripped down, verite look at the inner workings of France’s largest public radio broadcaster Radio France, Nicolas Philibert’s film looks at the various moving parts that go into creating a day’s worth of programming and content. Time is spent voice recording, reporting live from the Tour de France, interviewing guests, talking to the president’s press secretary, researching stories, etc. None of it is really shown with any kind of context in an effort to show things how they really are, and while for many films that approach can be a huge asset, it’s a real problem here.
Philibert clearly finds inspiration in the works of someone like Frederick Wiseman who will roll his camera endlessly to find a story within his footage. Philibert certainly captures a lot of different aspects of public radio production (perhaps most amusingly the researchers who look into the sillier public interest stories who at one point have to verify if strange fish washing up en masse on the California coast line are anchovies or sardines), but he can’t put it all together. Instead of letting sequences just play out at their own leisure, Philibert unwisely tries to quicken the pace by constantly cutting between his different elements. The final results are hard to keep up with for even the biggest of public radio nerds, and it leads to the maddening feeling that once one thread starts to get interesting, he will cut away to several different threads only take what feels like forever to get back to the point again. This one is really only for die hard and forgiving public radio aficionados looking for a primer in how their favourite news and talk shows are produced. (Andrew Parker)
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This is Stones Throw Records
It’s only playing for one night this week, but modern music and classic hip-hop buffs should find a lot to like in this charming, stylish, and well crafted look at indie record label Stones Throw and the differences and similarities between the artists that started it and the rebirth of an even more boundary pushing stable of creative talents.
Founded in San Jose by producer Peanut Butter Wolf (who will be in attendance for Thursday’s screening at 9:30pm) in earnest in the early 90s before becoming an actual company in 1996, Stones Throw started almost exclusively as an independent hip-hop label with deep influences in soul, new wave, and punk. Most famous for being the home of Madlib (who provides new music for this film) and the late J Dilla, the label branched out in wild new ways following the passing of the latter, signing a wide range of acts that had little to do with hip-hop, like art-punk Gary Wilson, “intergalactic immortal pop star” Diva, and nerdy soul singer Mayer Hawthorne.
Director Jeff Broadway delivers a solid music history lesson even by looking at just one record label. He traces the influence that Wolf took in and gave back while contrasting it nicely to the history and trends of the music scene at the time. With great interviews from those who were there and fans like Kanye West, Tyler, the Creator, and Talib Kweli, the result is the rare musical documentary that isn’t entirely centred on the business of making records or an intense look into the artistic process. It’s a film that doesn’t exist within a vacuum that pretends there wasn’t a lot going on outside of its subject, and instead goes the extra mile to show how Stones Throw has been consistently able to back talented artists with sometimes limited commercial appeal while simultaneously learning their biggest lessons from what is or was popular. Best of all, it’s easy to appreciate even if you don’t know a single artist anyone is talking about. (Andrew Parker)
Also at The Bloor this week:
A lot. So much so that there will actually be ANOTHER Bloor Cinema column this weekend with reviews of more new films.
But the biggest thing right now is that the pay-what-you-can Cinema Politica series returns this evening at 6:30pm with a screening of the drama Mars at Sunrise. A rare fictional film in the series, director Jessica Hable’s film looks at a poet and a painter trying to maintain their creative lifestyles in decidedly stifling Palestinian and Israeli cultures.