Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 28, 2015

Joris Ivens is one of the great activists in documentary film history. He was decades-unfailing in his devotion to causes, or rather to one great, multi-faceted Cause. With Chris Marker, Ivens was the cinema’s great Leftist. He was in it for the long haul, attentive to every historical or ideological shift, capable of joyous affirmation, and then, honourably, as willing to criticize the shortcomings of his own allies as he was to condemn the systemic sins of Capital and class injustice.

Since that is the case, it’s all the more remarkable that this early film of his should be so complete, so perfect in articulating the other of documentary’s main objectives. If Ivens was one of the idiom’s great ideologues, Regen/Rain shows him to be one of its supreme formalists. But not merely, not emptily. This short City Symphony, this simultaneous homage to Amsterdam and to film’s immeasurable expressive capacities, is also triumphantly Wordsworthian. (Or, since Ivens was Dutch, perhaps it’s worthy of the Netherlandish genre painters.) The exquisite beauty of plain things, people, processes! Documentaries exalt the everyday, and this is one of the most concise, most exultantly exalting examples of that essential task, that edifying potential.