Movie review: 'Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters'

Posted 12:59pm on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Unrated; 77 min.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, directed by Ben Shapiro, offers a compelling portrait of a photographer as, well, a filmmaker of sorts.

In 2000, Shapiro began documenting the Brooklyn-born, highly regarded artist at work. Shortly after he started, Crewdson, now 50, undertook an epic series of large, moody staged photos titled "Beneath the Roses," shot in western Massachusetts where his family vacationed when he was a boy.

In his uniform of khaki shorts, boots and T-shirt, Crewdson scouts locations. In postproduction, images get edited again and again. Crewdson casts locals as characters. Even though he's crafting a single frame, not a motion picture with dialogue, movement or plot. There's even a director of photography, whose presence provokes the question, "Isn't that what Crewdson is?"

This is one of the compelling quandaries posed by Shapiro's film, which is arguably more revelatory than many of the somber, overly constructed images from "Beneath the Roses."

Crewdson's images can look painterly even more than cinematic. A photo of a dive bar shot at twilight and the pensive tableau of a woman lying prone on a motel bed as her tween daughter sits upright in another bed recalls Edward Hopper. It may sound contrarian coming from a film critic, but I was left somewhat cold by the "Beneath the Roses" photos and frustrated by Crewdson's insistence on cinematic production values but resistance to authentic narrative.

Still, Shapiro's film is fascinating even if it can't possibly answer all the mysteries propelling the work of a photographer whose interest in secrets was rooted in wondering what tales were being uncovered in his psychologist father's basement office.

Exclusive: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

-- Lisa Kennedy,

The Denver Post

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