Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (Ophelia) is just one of his haunting pictures.
GREGORY CREWDSON: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (Ben Shapiro). 78 minutes. Opens Friday (December 21) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See listing. Rating: NNNN
American photographer Gregory Crewdson produces exquisite stills that marshal the forces of feature film productions, employing set decorators, location managers, fog machines, a cinematographer and models. Indeed, the crew and equipment behind any one of his detail-saturated pieces must surely dwarf those filmmaker Ben Shapiro used to make Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, a fascinating portrait of the artist at work.
Crewdson's series Beneath The Roses was constructed entirely on the twilit streets of Massachusetts towns abandoned by industry. His vast landscapes populated by solitary, introspective figures invoke a heightened loneliness, freezing those moments when we're stopped in our tracks by an overwhelming stillness in the air. No other artist, with the possible exception of David Lynch, a huge influence on Crewdson, so perfectly captures the mood of an Edward Hopper painting.
Shapiro complements his unfussy chronicle of Crewdson's development of Beneath The Roses with commentary by Crewdson, fellow photographer Laurie Simmons and writers Russell Banks and Rick Moody.
In one telling scene, Crewdson recalls a childhood spent eavesdropping on his psychiatrist father's sessions, straining to hear strangers' secrets. In a sense he's still doing that, except now he's sharing those secrets with his audience, and nestling them in frames of haunting beauty.