Friday, February 15, 2013

Sweet Observance

Sweetgrass (2009) - no director credit
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As far as observational documentaries go, Sweetgrass hits the right note for me in every way- it works as an anthropological study of sheepherders (cowboys) in their most natural state, works as a spectacular nature documentary with unbelievably beautiful surroundings (Montana and part of Wyoming in various seasons) and works as a hypnotic/visceral art film with colors, movement and its immediacy. I've seen this kind of work before- in Louis Malle and Robert Gardener India documentaries, Peter Bo Rappmund's Psychohydrography, James Benning's nature pieces etc. Conceived and executed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Illisa Barbash, the film is a marvelous achievement. The team seems to have found the perfect balance before it tipping over to become a gallery installation or worse, Baraka or Samsara. Castaing-Taylor possesses a kin, cinematic visual sense that is rare for this kind of filmmaking. Sweetgrass is an immensely watchable and engaging piece of work. I wished it being a little shorter though. 1 hour and 40 minute running time is quite an endurance test.

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