Monday, June 11, 2018

It's gardening time again, as Thomas Piper's FIVE SEASONS: THE GARDENS OF PIET OUDOLF opens in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles

The idea of a garden as "art" may not seem that far afield, but the idea of a garden as "modern art" or perhaps "contemporary art" may require a bit more work. Yet in FIVE SEASONS: THE GARDENS OF PIET OUDOLF, we meet a man -- the titular Mr. Oudolf, a landscape designer by trade -- who has spent his adult life creating just such garden art, from its initial design and, yes, "architecture," to the finished, blooming then fading result. (The garden, after all, is a year-long thing.) As shown to us by director/ producer/cinematog-rapher/co-editor Thomas Piper (shown below), the documentary is quiet, leisurely (even as it globe-hops all over the place) and generally interesting, especially, of course, for those viewers who love a garden.

From The Netherlands (Oudolf's home base) to New York City and the High Line and Battery and Botanical Gardens to Chicago, Germany, the UK and Belgium, then off to Texas to look at wildflowers and wolf down some barbecue, Piper globe trots near constantly, as we see much of Oudolf's work, hear his ideas and watch as they're put to use. (The man himself is shown above and below.)

Perhaps more important even than their artistic merit or beauty is the fact that his designs also protect the environment and the species that inhabit it.

Oddest among all that we see are probably Oudolf's initial drawings for a project, a sample of which is shown below. These are described by others in the film as "sexy," "elegant" and "genuine," looking themselves like some kind of contemporary art.

Along the way, we hear a number of Oudolf's ideas on color ("Brown is as important as any other color in the garden"), the garden as theater ("I put plants on stage and let them perform") and aging and the life cycle ("I won't come back, but the plants will").

While TrustMovies was not bored by this film, he must admit that his own eye did not pick up on much that Oudolf says and does. Often pretty and colorful, these particular gardens still seem like mostly a jumble to me. Your eye may read things differently. In any case, the film is nowhere near as unusual and riveting as was the 2016 delight, Portrait of a Garden.

In archival photos early on, we see Oudolf, his wife Anja and their two children. Anja seems to have stuck around, but of those two kids, we hear and see nothing further.

The documentary offers time passing but little sense of goal or destination. But if, as they say (and with which I am sure Oudolf would agree), "The journey is all," then this fellow ought to be more than satisfied with his blooming career.

From Argot Pictures and running just 75 minutes, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf opens in New York City at the IFC Center this Wednesday, June 13, and in the following weeks will hit cities across the country. In Chicago, you can see the film on June 15 at the Siskel Film Center. The documentary makes its Los Angeles debut on June 29 at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here.

Personal appearances! 
At NYC's IFC Center on Wednesday, June 13, 
Q&As with director Thomas Piper 
and subject Piet Oudolf at the 5:30 and 7:30 shows. 
In Chicago, director Tom Piper will appear in person 
at the Siskel Film Center on June 15, 
and in West Los Angeles, Piper will appear in person 
on Friday, June 29 at the 5:10pm & 7:30pm screenings.

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