May the powers that be bless the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, that fine institution that rescued RED ROCK WEST from direct-to-video oblivion. Now the programmers there have discovered RIVERS AND TIDES, Andy Goldsworthy WORKING WITH TIME, a poetic documentary about the work of that artist whose works balance effortlessly the line between static and performance. It’s not only been discovered, it’s being distributed, too, by Roxie Releasing. Check the link to the right for playdates around the country.
Goldsworthys works dominate their landscapes, interior or exterior, with an inviting presence that is, dare I use such a clichéd term?, organic. There really is no other word for it, using as they do found objects for the sculptures done in situ or ones that mimic that spontaneity for interiors. What is remarkable is how his recurring motifs: the pine cone and the vine, appear so vibrantly different and original in context. Made of ice, the cone on a seashore, or the vine seeming to honeycomb a rock, glow with an incandescent light that is as ethereal as it is ephemeral.
That ephemeral quality is one of the key components of his work. Few are made to last beyond the day of their creation. A snake made of leaves coiling down a stream, for example, or a tiny pool filled to bursting with marigolds, wont last the night, yet the impression they make on the viewer achieves a permanence in the memory that outlasts memories of inferior work.
Filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer get a few things gloriously right. He shows the creative process as both an interior, mental exercise and a physical one. Goldsworthy struggles with large flat stone as he lays them out in a circle, building we know not what. The stones keep imploding, though even their tumble, like a waterfall of dominoes is wonderful to watch. It gives a sense that a practiced eye and hand are not enough, there is an art beyond the mechanical to creating his pieces. By the third try, Goldsworthy with a complete unselfconsciousness mutters that its taken him until now to get the feel of the stones. He then turns to Riedelsheimer, whos filming, and tells him to do something useful and gather more stones. Its a focus on his art that is telling, so single-minded that it doesnt allow even for ego.
He also doesnt show us the finished product before the process of its creation. We get a sense of Goldsworthys inner eye, the one that sees disparate objects not as they are: twigs, leaves, flowers, but what they will be, compositions with stunning visual impact. I defy you to see what miracle of aesthetics Goldsworthy is putting together with twigs and thorns as he sits beneath a tree lost in his inner vision.
As a cinematographer, Riedelsheimer captures the essence of the sculptures with exquisite framing of the perfect moment. Or, in the case of that leaf snake, moments. The serpent coils and writhes as though alive and the way Riedelsheimer has caught it on film gliding effortlessly, it seems positively sentient. Riedelsheimer gets it and lets us get it, too.
There are also the obligatory scenes of the artists daily life, patently ordinary and going on a bit too long. Once we get the sense of Goldsworthys sense of disjunction in the presence of such everyday activities as breakfast being made or children dressed, its time to move on, not linger. Better to follow this artist, as we eventually do, as he walks down a country lane, gathering what he finds and then watch as he performs his particular apotheosis on them, rendering them sublime.
In RIVERS AND TIDES, Riedelsheimer, isnt afraid of silence. Au contraire, the stillness underscores the mystical feeling that these works inspire in even this most jaded of filmgoers. Feed your soul, see this film.