DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Gregory Crewdson – Brief Encounters (2012)

Documentary about the work of a most unusual photographer.

Published on June 11, 2014

Gregory Crewdson – Brief Encounters (2012)

Gregory Crewdson – Brief Encounters (2012)

Performers: Gregory Crewdson, Russell Banks, Rick Moody
Director: Ben Shapiro
Studio: Zeitgeist Films 21151 [5/21/13]
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: English PCM stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Deleted scenes of two other photo shoots; Additional interviews with Crewdson, Banks, Moody & others; Theatrical trailer; Panel from LACMA, led by Elvis Mitchell: Crewdson, Shapiro & writer Jonathan Lethem
Length: 77 minutes (without extras)
Rating: ****

Gregory Crewdson is quite unusual photographer who creates haunting large color stills of life in small-town America which have all the detail and possible narrative of a feature film but which are just single frame images. He is influenced by David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edward Hopper and some of his images look it. He stages the settings for the photos elaborately, using lighting and prop people who usually work on films. His obsessive eye for detail controls even tiny items that appear in shots, and exactly how the people in them stand and look. His own dreams and fantasies also inform his works. He shoots mostly in small towns in western Massachusetts or upstate New York.

For some of his shoots, Crewdson has even brought in artificial snow, and for another shown in the documentary he depended on a weather report of actual snow arriving the next day and planned for the shoot after the snow fell. He usually makes the shot around 5 PM so he can use movie-type lights in the scene. The film was shot over about ten years, during which Crewdson did various projects, of which the major one was “Beneath the Roses,” which involved some of the largest setups he had ever done. The film’s title comes from the billboard on one movie theater which Crewdson had them put up for his shot of a city street scene.  Though just standard DVD, the transfer is extremely high visual quality as befits the subject.

The extras are really interesting, about as much as the actual film. They include details on two more specific shoots which he did, and a long and fascinating group interview from a film festival. He is now taken with the old buildings on the backlot of the Cinecitta movie studios in Rome and plans his next series to be shot there. However, they don’t seem to have people in them, which lead to the individual plots which one can imagine when viewing his large-scale photographs. It’s as though Crewdson freezes a moment in time out of a feature film.

—John Sunier




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