Saturday, January 30, 2021

A nifty new doc about a much-loved (and maybe much misunderstood) artist: Robin Lutz's M.C. ESCHER--JOURNEY TO INFINITY

As I recall, one of the first things we learn from the new documentary about fabled artist M.C. Escher (1898-1972) is that the fellow, who knew a few things about movies and animation, as well as about art and mathematics, felt that "There is only one person in the world who could make a really good movie about my prints: myself." 

TrustMovies would like to think that Escher might actually approve of and even be rather nicely entertained by M.C. ESCHER--JOURNEY TO INFINITY, the film about him, his life and his work. This is because, as directed by Robin Lutz (shown below), it offers us Escher through almost entirely the man's own words and images: 

diary musings, excerpts from lectures and correspondence (all voiced brilliantly by that indispensible British actor/writer/ raconteur Stephen Fry), even as Escher’s woodcuts, lithographs, and other print works appear in both their original form and in some of the "altered" versions, using those day-glo colors from the psychedelic 60s, which us hippies of that time dearly loved and Escher himself dearly hated. Ironically, these color-added renditions increased his international popularity exponentially, while leaving out (or at least helping to obfuscate) much of the artist's ideas and intent.

Lutz's film moves along at a very nice clip, doling out Escher's history, desires, thoughts and ideas via his own words. Fortunately, this guy had a splendid way with words, and via Mr. Fry's succulent narration, we can savor every thoughtful, funny, sometimes sad or angry phrase. Examples: "A man may probably never be able to visualize an idea as strongly as he feels it himself"; "color is indispensable, but I don't want to color." Regarding the thing he's trying to capture in his art: "Endlessness, within a limited plane."

I don't recall ever viewing a movie about an artist in which that artist is able to explain so well just what it is he is trying to achieve. This is bracing and, I should think for fans of his work, a must to see and hear. About those fans: Musician Graham Nash is one, and what he has to say about Escher will probably raise some eyebrows and temperatures. Seems to me that he holds this artist in a little too high an esteem. As much as I can enjoy Escher's work, I don't really find it all that profound. It combines wonderful craftsmanship with a genuine attempt to join art and science. But there is a certain literalness about it that places puzzles and games ahead of depth, and so for me, it never quite transcends. Still, that unusual art remains great fun to view and consider.

Yes, Escher's work is wonderful in many ways, and so is this relatively short documentary, which entertains and charms, even as it gives us quite a fine look into Escher's history, his remaining family (two sons already in their 90s!), his art and his ideas. (At one point he notes that his interest in mathematics has become so dominant that he wonders if his work is any longer actually art.)

In addition to the unlicensed psychedelic use of Escher's art back in the day, Mr. Lutz also lets us see Escher's influence in culture and the performing arts -- movies and animation (in which the artist took quite an interest: included here is a scene from Christopher Nolan's Inception) and even dance (above). And who else but Escher would have had the chutzpah to say "no" to the likes of Mick Jagger?!

From Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber, in English and running just 81 minutes, M.C. Escher--Journey to Infinity opens in virtual cinemas this coming Friday, February 5 -- in New York, Los Angeles and over 75 additional cities. For more information on the film and/or to check out its various venues, click here and scroll down.

No comments: