Panorama | Vanguard
"For in the immediate world, everything is to be discerned, for him who can discern it, and centrally and simply, without either dissection into science, or digestion into art, but with the whole of consciousness, seeking to perceive it as it stands…" - James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Peter van Houten’s visually sumptuous, deeply felt film focuses on Emile Raaijmakers, near 80, a semi-recluse living in the eastern Pyrenees, one of the poorest regions of France. As Emile expounds on his singular life and philosophy - a life haunted by his harsh and unforgiving artist father but redeemed by his soulful communion with the natural world around him - a mesmerizing universe unfurls before us. Van Houton conjures some cinematic wizardry (Sokurov’s Mother and Son comes to mind), which we might call special effects, but it’s more simply the power of attention and reduction, and the quality of framing that bring about a rare and touching intensity. Call it phenomenology, call it transfiguration, but here’s what ultimately matters: fathers may be cruel but the poppies shine.