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Art that Nature Makes, An
Photographer Rosamond Purcell isn't a household name, except maybe among serious photography fans, but this documentary, highlighting the journey of her breathtaking work, should deservedly make you glad you're now in the know. Artists and those predisposed to staring at nature in all its forms will absolutely be drawn in to this excellent treatise on Purcell's work. But even if you 'don't get' art, Molly Bernstein's film will help you considerably on your way.
Bernstein catalogs Purcell's work through the development of her oeuvre, slyly revealing the artist as well. At first, Purcell might put off Joe and Jane six-pack, as she talks to a junkyard owner in Maine. After all, she's just wandering around picking up trash, which she takes home to photograph. But you can do this kind of stuff if you're eloquent. Bernstein catches perfect moments of Purcell explaining what she's going for, while interspersing those moments with critical and collegial interviewees, and most importantly Purcell's work itself.
Of rather significant note is the revelation that Purcell essentially started her career by confronting a phobia head on. She's fearless and inquisitive and incredibly bright, and though her art focuses primarily on nature and decay, she's really Catholic in her taste of subject matter. You'll learn a bunch of cool things while watching, (bonus!) but mostly you'll be blown away by her work, which takes natural phenomena to repurpose with maximum artistic intent.
Particularly delightful are a photo series on decaying dice, and one of the effects of ship-eating clams on wood, which takes the conflict between concave and convex to dizzying heights. (It's really amusing when the biologist discussing the clams with Purcell describes the mysterious patterns she brings out in her compositions as 'meaningless'.) And essentially meaningless they are, but in Purcell's eye, those boreholes, or the speckled patterns on birds' eggs, are the intersection of art and science, math and god.
Bernstein's 75-minute documentary binds you in a spell of quirky artists, quirky scientists, quirky junkyard owners, and the realization that, not only does Purcell's work represent 'an art that nature makes', it also reminds us that we make nature art. Highly Recommended for artists and the like, eminently rentable for others, resulting in a Recommended average.
Kino Lorber delivers this film to us on this DVD in a 1.78:1 ratio presentation that does a nice job of rendering Purcell's photographs. Detail levels are better than acceptable for DVD, and colors are well saturated and naturalistic. Nothing to complain about here, really, in the way of compression artifacts or damage.
English 2.0 Stereo Audio is similarly serviceable. All interview subjects are heard loud and clear, and even the Mainer is understandable! The score is evocative and mixed well with all other elements, and enjoys a wide dynamic range.
Extras are limited to the Trailer and Closed Captioning on this release.
Molly Bernstein's gorgeous documentary does both a stately and down-to-earth job of explaining and displaying photographer Rosamond Purcell's luminous and moldering work. The photographer finds beauty and beguiling patterns in nature's decay. You'll find meaning and delight if you lean back and let the wisdom flow over you like a loam-scented breeze. Recommended.