Colin Low I

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Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 28, 2015

In a way this short film is simply a series of ably assembled impressions. We’re in Colin Low’s corner of south-western Alberta, which affords any number of extraordinarily attractive vistas. Impressionism comes into play because Low and his cinematographer/collaborator Wolf Koenig resist the temptation to concentrate on mere grandeur, or on picturesque effects. Paintings and postcards, maybe, but people also work here.

In a way this short film is simply an account of what one of these working people, in this case cowboy Wallace Jensen, does to occupy his time. Jensen’s various duties, not to mention Cardston native Low’s intimate familiarity with each one of them, populate this vividly glancing assembly. Which, in the era of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, with John Ford/Wayne’s The Searchers just up there on the horizon, inadvertently makes this modest picture into a really major statement.

In a way this short film represents a radical revision of the entire Western genre. It’s that, or a sharp reminder that for all of history’s many conflicts, and all of the indelible myths that Hollywood made out of them, the West is finally a truth and a reality. I mean to say that it’s a set of geographical, geological facts. Anthropological and agricultural facts as well: individuals came to this region, stayed here, homesteaded or ranched here, formed communities and made lives. What is gunplay or melodrama in the face of all that? Anthropology and agriculture? Wallace Jensen is part of a complex of economic and societal relations, which stand as strong structuring absences in this film. Between the lines and just outside the frame this is a story of town and city planning, transportation, mining, the Department of Indian Affairs—everything!

That’s all between the lines. On the surface, Jensen rides and ropes as one of the continent’s most staggering vistas rolls away in the background. In a way this short film is a simple homage to a trade and a craft, and the simple way they are knit into the all the beauty of the earth.