Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary about the Canadian industrial landsca;pe photographer Edward Burtynsky, opens with an impressive eight-minute tracking shot along the floor of a Chinese factory, past aisle after aisle of assembly-line activity. The movie could have ended there, with a culminating image of Burtynsky's finished photo--that's all the director needs to say. But director Jennifer Baichwal continues with the picture and introduces you to Burtynsky and his working methods and ideas. Which is where things get tricky.
the film, Burtynsky claims that his images of industrial creation
and decay are not intended to damn or glamorize his subject:
he only wants to show how things are. From other interviews
I'm not sure he holds to that no-spin self-assessment, but
in the context of this picture the statement is simply disingenuous.
You don't drag a large-format camera with a crew of assistants
to shoot factories in China or ship-breaking beaches in Bangladesh
without an agenda. This is provocative in ways that Burtnysky
certainly didn't intend--I'm just not sure what the director
Part of me finds this an interesting treatment of the artistic temperament; another finds it terribly patronizing to it, as if being open to creative thinking is simply a passive act and has nothing to do with work and active engagement; all of me finds this has no business in any thoughtful consideration of Diane Arbus and her work.
Then it gets maudlin.
It's beautifully photographed, but through a
slick, Lynchian gauze that once again has nothing to do with
the way Arbus's photos actually looked. There might be a more
thoroughly misguided biopic in recent memory, but I can't
bring one to mind.
©2007 Pat Padua