Frederick Back

film 7 of 7

The Mighty River

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 1, 2015

Animation is so agonizingly time-intensive, and Frédéric Back is committed to parables. He takes forever, and then insists on morally educating us. In many ways, for many audiences, that makes him both inaccessible and unpalatable. This means, or at least it could mean, that Back is a double world-class artist, who has produced distressingly few films, and that those films aren’t really likely to circulate and penetrate like they deserve to do.

It’s such a pity, because on the basis of this curricularly and pedagogically irreproachable production, he’s practically on par with late Roberto Rossellini. What a deeply radical film—all this aesthetic thunder (in perfect proportion and perfect taste) in the service of education, and a measured and yet insistent activism. And we not only have R.R. to compare him with, but Walt Whitman (the Romantic, expansive exposition) and Upton Sinclair (the dreadful, calm accumulation of dire detail) as well. Also, alternatively, this feels like William Blake brought forward into the era of modern industrialization and capitalism. Not subordinate to, not derivative of. I mean, on par with. Mere mortal expressions pale in the comparison.

Tweet Review:

Saw F. Back’s #TheMightyRiver. Propaganda, + data & duration, turns into a declaration of principle & faith.

#TheMightyRiver. Back ’87 splits Manet landscapes w’ (P.A) Renoirian human figures. This one looks like an animated JLM Turner painting!