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Manufactured Landscapes

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

Blake bemoaned the dark Satanic mills.  According to this those were the good old days; the world is now a slag heap.  Irrecovably?  That’s the question these days.  Burtynsky’s images, as I’m sure everyone has pointed out, are paradoxically beautiful.  Perfectly composed, awesomely expansive, blindingly clear.  The sequences that show him shooting have documentary, and documentary/ethical interest.  He’s capturing something important here, and the dwarfed human figures in those pulverizing compositions add to the power of his message.  Thence our active response.  But in articulating the difficulty of these people, one adds to their dehumanization.  No easy answer to that one.  The director’s Burtynsky shots don’t necessarily tell us the same thing, for instance.  A long lateral track in that factory starts the film.  Thirty-two aisles, that stretch way way back there?  The thing is, the place appears to be clean and well lighted, and they’re all working.  Also, the gal who puts that component together does it as quickly as Vertov’s matchbox girl, and without the benefit of fast motion.  The photographer’s commentary doesn’t add much; athletes should skate, and the rest, usually, should be silence.  His final point is good though.  We don’t want to change, but we can’t deny that there’s something wrong.