Colin Low II

film 6 of 6


Film Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

This is one of those intermittent NFB staples, the Royal Journey, Helicopter Canada-like country-crossing celebration of the Canadian totality, rendered by means of discrete, regional Canadian impressions. They are supposed to add up to the Nation, which they at least sort of do. (Remember Donald Brittain’s acerbic narration for the latter film? If the Board has proven anything it is how very versatile the seemingly public promotional film can be.) What was the occasion, here in 1992? In the face of the actual film, this doesn’t remotely matter. While it could have been merely skillful and generic, this was made by Colin Low, and as such ends up being effortlessly and absolutely astounding. This is the guy behind In the/Labyrinth, after all, and it shows.

The Labyrinth project was a mixture of anthropology and archetype, and at one slightly self-regarding, very sweet moment in this film they actually break into multi-screens and cut in a bit of Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak. The same woman, right? In the end, though, Momentum isn’t trying to be nearly as expansive or longitudinal as its illustrious sort-of forebear. It’s much more present tense, and much simpler. The concept, as suggested by the title, is that we move forward, literally and figuratively, in countless wonderful ways. We do things, and we do things with others, with the result that we accomplish and we arrive. This wonderfully optimistic idea is simply and beautifully expressed by means of a ton of perfect, serene, god-like compositions. With regard to content these are all fascinating and beautiful things, that furthermore are very artfully combined and juxtaposed to tease out complementary contrasts and more fundamental correlations.

That’s about it, and it doesn’t add up to much of an argument. Maybe that’s because these filmmakers have passed beyond arguing, having long since (cf. Low’s chronological filmography, along with anything Tom Daly or Wolf Koenig ever did) accomplished ethical and moral sufficiency, as artists and, I think, as people. They’re not arguing, but painting, and that most lovingly. In this Momentum more than anything resembles Humphrey Jennings’ historic Listen to Britain (1942, q.v.). Like Jennings’ film, here is a gathering that is paradoxically both concise and comprehensive. With a modest mindset and overwhelming artistry we get a selection that is so apt as to be comprehensive. Instead of beleaguered Britain, and instead of a threat that requires and actually stimulates our decency, we have a variety and a plenitude that makes decency almost automatic. Canada. All that goes for the film itself.

They say that movies can’t make you a better person. Oh, yeah? Here is an apt culmination to this exemplary, absolute career. Puts most everyone else to shame, repeatedly and over and over.

Twitter Review:

Saw #Momentum. Late entry in what you might call the Seasonal Cinema of #ColinLow. Plenty of human interest, of social commitment…

… But there’s a beyond, too: a longer, gentler, hopeful view. Majesty & mercy combined, maybe. Director as deist?