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Rating History

Hearts and Minds
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i], the 1974 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature directed by Peter Davis, critically dissects the [i]consequences[/i] of the Vietnam War on the South Vietnamese the U.S. ostensibly assisted against so-called ?Communist aggression? from North Vietnam, and the American servicemen, their families, and the anti-war protesters at home. The familiar phrase ?hearts and minds? (introduced via a President Johnson speech featured in newsreel footage) refers to the political, social, and cultural aspects of successfully conducting modern warfare. The phrase ?hearts and minds? captures the indisputable necessity of winning the allegiance of the native civilian population, especially during a military occupation. Without continued and consistent civilian support, both the local government and the military occupation in support of that regime are doomed to failure.

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i] opens with an almost idyllic scene: a quiet, rural village, presumably in South Vietnam, with adults at work in a rice field and children at play. A false note, however, is quickly introduced: an American soldier casually crosses the village, apparently ignoring the villagers, who in turn show varying levels of disinterest at his presence. The documentary then introduces a former high-ranking U.S. government official, Clark Clifford, the second Secretary of Defense under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Clifford succeeded Robert McNamara in 1968, after McNamara?s privately expressed doubts about the progress in Vietnam led to his dismissal by the Johnson administration (McNamara was ?promoted? to head the World Bank). Clifford is the rarest of government officials: involved in the highest levels of policy-making during the Vietnam War, who publicly acknowledges and accepts his own culpability in the Vietnam War, and recognizes that the premises underlying the rationale for war, and the consequences of those actions, were entirely unjustified.

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i] then briefly reviews the early history of the Vietnam War, from the end of the French occupation of Vietnam in 1954 (according to the documentary, the United States funded fully 78 percent of the French war). A French diplomat discloses that the U.S. offered the use of tactical nuclear weapons against North Vietnam (the French refused the offer). [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] quotes Johnson promising victory in Vietnam, and later, Nixon claiming that the U.S. involvement in Vietnam has been marked by a ?degree of restraint unprecedented in the annals of war.? In newsreel footage, Senator Joseph McCarthy articulates the then conventional wisdom of geopolitical strategy in Southeast Asia, the ?domino theory? (i.e., if South Vietnam was allowed to fall to Communism, revolution would spread to the other countries in Southeast Asia). Everywhere, anti-communism took precedence over democracy promotion. The specter of communism was used to support unpopular, often corrupt regimes. South Vietnam was no different, with the United States promoting a series of ineffectual leaders in Saigon who, by themselves, did little to provide a meaningful alternative to Ho Chi Minh and the other North Vietnamese leaders.

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i] then moves from the macro to the micro level, from idealistic, often abstract government policies and their implementation, to the real-world consequences of those policies, both here in the United States and abroad. Peter Davis interviews several returning Vietnam veterans, including Lt. George Coker, an ex-POW who arrives in his hometown of Linden, New Jersey to a hero?s welcome, but who, over the course of several interviews and appearances, betrays his inner conflicts and doubts about the Vietnam War. With less ambiguity, but with an equivalent effect, Davis interviews Robert Muller, a paraplegic Vietnam veteran, who discusses his initial faith in the ?rightness? of the cause in Vietnam, and then his gradual disillusionment at the orders he was compelled to carry out and his treatment upon his return from Vietnam. Randy Floyd, an ex-bomber pilot, first discusses the pride he took in his professional attitude toward his work, as well as the expertise in his field; later, he chokes back the tears as he describes the growing realization of the human costs of war (i.e., the bombing of innocent civilians and his role in their deaths). Daniel Ellsberg, the former Rand Corporation analyst and State department and Defense department official responsible for the release of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret, 7,000 page study of decision making in Vietnam from 1945 through 1968, to the U.S. Senate and the American media, discusses his transformation from implicit or tacit approval of the war and its aims, to a vocal anti-war activist (he also movingly describes his relationship with the late Robert F. Kennedy, and his encounter with Kennedy the day of his assassination). After describing the history of U.S. support for puppet regimes in South Vietnam, Ellsberg strikingly concludes that, "we [i]weren't[/i] on the wrong side, we were the wrong side."

In another interview, General William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (1964-68) remains unrepentant about supporting the Vietnam War and the United States goals and aims in Southeast Asia. In discussing the Vietnamese, Westmoreland engages in a casual, offhand racism (he calls the Vietnamese backward and primitive, lacking civilization, and valuing human life differently than Westerners). Davis contrasts Westmoreland's statements with footage of young Vietnamese children, dressed in traditional mourning clothes, grieving over their dead father. Westmoreland also reiterates his long-held belief in the necessity for a wider, more prolonged war (i.e., the bombing and subsequent invasion of North Vietnam, which most critics estimated would mean, at minimum, another 500,000 soldiers in North Vietnam, subject to a completely hostile population). Like General Westmoreland, Walt Rostow, one of President Johnson's National Security Advisors, rejects the position that the Vietnam War was unjustified, illegitimate, and begun and maintained under incorrect or false assumptions (presumably, even with hindsight, Rostow would have supported U.S. involvement in Vietnam, with an even greater escalation of the war in its early stages).

For a contemporary audience with a limited understanding of the Vietnam War, however, [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] might prove to be a difficult, confusing documentary film. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] provides the audience with only a brief, cursory introduction to the decades-long U.S. involvement in Vietnam. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] presumes that the audience will provide its own context for the Vietnam War, its origins and other relevant background information. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] was made when the Vietnam War and knowledge of the war by a then contemporary audience would be presumed, due to media exposure, reporting, and direct personal experience. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] will also be disquieting for another, unrelated reason, the real-world tangible effects of U.S. military power brought to bear on those we meant to assist: the documentary filmmakers include footage of Vietnamese dead and wounded, including now iconic images of children escaping from a napalm attack (in particular a young naked girl stumbling into the arms of a sympathetic American servicemen) and a mother carrying her dead child. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] also shows us another, more brutal side of our involvement in Vietnam: a South Vietnamese general, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, summarily executing a suspected member of the VietCong. This footage, taken by an NBC crew, has also acquired iconic status (as has the black and white photograph taken simultaneously by Eddie Adams, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his photography).

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i] ventures briefly into North Vietnam during the Nixon administration. The footage was apparently taken after the United States renewed bombing North Vietnam in late December 1972, both in response to a new North Vietnamese offensive in the south and to improve the U.S.'s bargaining position vis--vis the North Vietnamese at the so-called Paris Peace Talks, negotiations which themselves were begun in 1968. A young farmer?s grief is exposed to the camera (and the audience). He describes his love and affection for his three-year old daughter, killed by a U.S. bomb (his mother also died in the bombing, while his farm animals survived). Peter Davis contrasts this moving footage with President Nixon speaking at a White House event for returning POW's where, to raucous applause from the audience of U.S. servicemen, their families, other government officials, and the media, he describes the renewed bombing of North Vietnam with satisfaction.

[i]Hearts and Minds[/i], however, can be justifiably accused of lacking balance in the presentation of the North Vietnamese as anything except well-intentioned nationalists, who never committed any atrocities or war crimes of their own. Besides the interview with the North Vietnamese farmer, the documentary filmmakers behind [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] refuse to explore North Vietnamese actions during the war, both toward the South Vietnamese themselves who either didn't support their policies or were simply seen as obstacles to their goal of forcing the United States to withdraw from South Vietnam. Although an American POW is interviewed at length for the documentary, [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] fails to mention the harsh, often inhumane treatment of American prisoners-of-war by the North Vietnamese. Nonetheless, [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] remains a groundbreaking achievement in the documentary format. [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] is also a timely reminder the consequences of military adventurism abroad regardless of the intentions, ideals or policies in question. As such, [i]Hearts and Minds[/i] bears an unsurprising (and uncomfortable) resonance with the current occupation of Iraq. The United States was fiercely divided over our continued involvement in Vietnam. It remains to be seen whether the war on Iraq will be equally as divisive.

The Quatermass Xperiment
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Professor Bernard Quatermass. Most American genre fans will be unfamiliar with the name of this fictional character, unless they've come across [i]The Creeping Unknown[/i], [i]Enemy From Space[/i] or [i]Five Million Years to Earth[/i] (as they were retitled for release in the United States). Professor Quatermass, the head of the fictional British Experimental Rocket Group, originated in a BBC serial written by Nigel Kneale in the early 1950s. The success of the low budget, quickly produced serials made crossovers into other media more than likely.

In 1955, Hammer Studios produced the first theatrical feature, [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i], directed by Val Guest from Kneale's first BBC serial. Commercial success led to a sequel, [i]Quatermass 2[/i] (the first English-language sequel to feature a number in the title), and more than ten years later, [i]Quatermass and the Pit[/i], the first to be filmed in color. Kneale wrote a final serial for the BBC in 1978 (it made no room for additional sequels). Quatermass and his exploits continue to be considered highly influential in science fiction, influencing the long-running Dr. Who series (including one storyline that borrowed heavily from the third serial) and later, Chris Carter's [i]The X-Files[/i]. Just this year, the BBC revived Quatermass with a new production (performed live, it remains unaired in the United States).

As a standalone film, [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i] will leave novice viewers wondering why Quatermass became such a popular character in England. Quatermass, as played by American actor Brian Donlevy in the first and second films, is peevish, hot-tempered, and arrogant, with only an anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment streak to make him palatable. In [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i], Quatermass has succeeded in sending a manned rocket into space. The rocket ship has crash-landed in the English countryside. Rushing to the scene, Quatermass and his colleagues discover only one survivor (out of three), Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth). Victor has devolved into a state of near-catatonia. Quatermass, interested more in what Victor may have learned in space, shows little interest in his well being (Quatermass is too single-minded to allow empathy or compassion dictate his actions). That role is left to Dr. Gordon Briscoe (David King-Wood) and Victor's wife, Judith (Margia Dean), both of whom try, without success to break through Victor's silence.

Victor, of course, isn't what he seems. His catatonia hides not just knowledge of outer space and whatever might exist there, but somehow, he's brought something back with him. What that might be is better left unsaid, since it provides one of the few pleasures in an otherwise slow-to-develop, dialogue-driven storyline. After initial resistance from Quatermass, Victor is hospitalized (rather than quarantined, as he probably should be). Chief Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner) slips into the storyline, concerned about the strange disappearance of the two Victor, or rather something, escapes, causing a few offscreen deaths along the way, a massive manhunt, a suspicious slime trail, a scene involving a monster and a little girl (most likely lifted from James Whale's [i]Frankenstein[/i]), a few dead animals at the local zoo, and finally, after much dawdling, a confrontation at Westminster Abbey where the fate of England (and, therefore, the world) is at stake. No points for guessing who wins. Quatermass, unbowed by a brush with an extraterrestrial organism that posed a substantial threat to humanity, chillingly decides to press on with his experiment.

As expected for a film made with limited resources circa 1955, the special effects in [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i] are, to be charitable, laughable. While we never see the rocket ship in flight (we hear it), the final transformation from man to monster is missing and when we do see the monster (an all-too unimaginative puppet), is less than impressive. The audience is also asked to believe that an oversized, slow-moving, slimy monster somehow escapes detection by the police and average citizens out for their daily constitutionals, until the monster manages to find its way to a scaffold inside Westminster Abbey. Given the time period, the less said about the science, the better. To be fair, Kneale was writing speculative fiction, but given the fifty-year time difference, Kneale's ideas are either wrong or simply quaint.

Directing wise, Val Guest does nothing to distinguish [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i] from other adult-oriented science fiction films of the period. Guest errs on the side of including too many dialogue-heavy scenes or otherwise superfluous scenes. The actors acquit themselves well, although only Richard Wordsworth as Victor makes an impression (as the sympathetic astronaut). As Quatermass, Brian Donlevy tends to deliver his lines over emphatically, making his characterization unsympathetic (unlike Andrew Keir's interpretation twelve years later in [i]Quatermass and the Pit[/i]). Ultimately, [i]The Quatermass Xperiment[/i] is more notable for its status as the first Quatermass film and its impact on science fiction in the decades that followed.

Zoom
Zoom (2006)
8 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Any time a movie studio passes on advance screenings for the press, it?s usually a bad sign that that the studio lacks confidence in the final product. Case in point, [i]Zoom[/i] or, per the extra-long DVD title, [i]Zoom: Academy for Superheroes[/i], a derivative, unimaginative, kid-friendly superhero comedy starring Tim Allen ([i]Galaxy Quest[/i], [i]The Santa Clause[/i]) and a cast of pre-teen and teen actors (plus actors slumming for paychecks, e.g., Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase, and Rip Torn). With a by-the-numbers screenplay by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum, and uninspired direction by Peter Hewitt ([i]Garfield[/i], [i]Thunderpants[/i], [i]The Borrowers[/i]), there?s little reason to give [i]Zoom[/i] a chance on DVD or cable television, unless, of course, you happen to be a Tim Allen or Chevy Chase completist and can?t wait a few months for [i]Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer[/i] and/or [i]Spider-Man 3[/i]. You should (wait, that is).

[i]Zoom[/i] gives us all the backstory we?ll need to understand what?s going on from the opening credits, comic book style (an idea, like many others borrowed from the comic book-to-film adaptations of Marvel Comics and its well-known superhero characters). Twenty-five years ago, the government created a five-member super team, codenamed ?Zenith,? to save the world from minor and major catastrophes. Eager to exponentially increase the super-team?s powers, the government subjected them to risky ?Gamma-13? radiation. One member of the super-team, Connor Shepard/Concussion (Kevin Zegers), went rogue, killing three of the other members. Conner?s younger brother, Jack/Captain Zoom (Tim Allen), managed to saved the day by actions sending Concussion to another dimension, but lost his [i]Flash[/i]-like powers in the process.

Fast forward to the present. Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase), a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, alerts General Larraby (Rip Torn), the head of the still existing government project, that a time-space, pan-dimensional rift has opened over Long Beach, California. Concussion, it seems, is about to make a comeback, but it?ll take tend days for him to traverse the distance to the site where the original vortex opened up. Grant and Larraby press the now middle-aged Jack into service. They offer him money and the opportunity to spend time with the klutzy, presumably brilliant, Marsha Holloway (Courteney Cox). Jack, paunchy, grizzled, and bitter at a lifetime?s worth of disappointments, shows little interest in helping the government train a new super-team.

Grant, Larraby, and Holloway recruit Dylan West (Michael Cassidy), a 17-year old, longhaired rebel without a clue with invisibility and astral projection powers, Summer Jones (Kate Mara), a 16-year old outcast who can move objects with her mind (and read emotions too), Tucker Willams (Spencer Breslin), a rotund 12-year old with body-expanding powers, and Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman), a six-year old, temperamental blonde moppet with super-strength. Together, they have to overcome their (superficial) differences, learn to work together as a cohesive superhero team, and, with Jack setting aside his cynicism, forming a makeshift family, all before Concussion returns to exact revenge on Jack and cause general mayhem.

So little effort went into writing and producing [i]Zoom[/i] that it?s hard to know where to begin. It?s not so much that [i]Zoom[/i] is painfully bad (well, the fart and gas jokes are) or objectionably offensive (hmm, the all-Caucasian super-team is, in light of the minority candidates rejected initially), but that it?s unmemorably mediocre and generically derivative. [i]Zoom[/i] borrows haphazardly from the [i]X-Men[/i] trilogy, [i]Fantastic Four[/i], [i]The Hulk[/i], [i]The Incredibles[/i], and [i]Sky High[/i], adding nothing new to the mix. The superheroes and their powers are unoriginal, the character arcs predictable (confidence-building all around, sacrificing individualism for teamwork and the good of others, reconciling with the past, chaste romance for the teenage set, comical romance for adults, and lame costumes names for everyone), and the cast transparently bored with their underwritten roles or mugging shamelessly (Mr. Chase, Mr. Torn, three words: voice over work).

Interestingly, [i]Zoom[/i] tries to cover a broad demographic (if by broad we mean an all-Caucasian super-team and cast, with one or two people of color sprinkled in as extras). The super-team, ages 6, 12, 16, and 17, covers the preteen and teen demographic. The adults, ranging from the geriatric (Torn), the near geriatric (Chase), the middle-aged (Allen), and the not-yet-middle-aged (Cox), cover the adult demographic almost completely, with the exception of twenty-somethings. That doesn?t matter, since [i]Zoom[/i] wasn?t intended for anyone in that age range anyway (too young to be parents, too old to enjoy the juvenile humor). Why more thought wasn?t given to the characters, their backstories, or their superhero identities is a question only the screenwriters and the studio (Sony Pictures) can answer and given how quickly [i]Zoom[/i] came and went in movie theaters (no pun intended) minus advance press screenings, they didn?t care much.

If, though, an inoffensive, unoriginal, kid-friendly superhero comedy is your bag, then [i]Zoom[/i] will be forgettable non-fun for the entire family. As an alternative, you can rent or re-rent [i]The Incredibles[/i] or, if you?ve seen [i]The Incredibles[/i] too many times recently, give [i]Sky High[/i] a chance. If that skews too young for your tastes, then give the underseen, underappreciated [i]My Super Ex-Girlfriend[/i] a try (not a great film by any means, but passable entertainment for a Saturday evening). Others might suggest giving the [i]Fantastic Four[/i] a chance, but if they did that, their judgment would be seriously open to question.

Ashes of Time Redux
8 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Wong Kar-Wai's ([i]My Blueberry Nights[/i], [i]2046[/i], [i]In the Mood for Love[/i], [i]Fallen Angels[/i], [i]Chungking Express[/i], [i]Days of Being Wild[/i]) fourth film, [i]Ashes of Time[/i], released in 1994 in Hong Kong and over several years in the West, returns to cinemas fourteen years later with a new print (cobbled together from various sources) that better serves cinematographer Christopher Doyle's super-saturated palette, a new score better suited to [i]Ashes of Time's[/i] themes and setting, and more coherent, more accessible storytelling. Still present, of course, is Kar-Wai's idiosyncratic, introspective, character-first, action-second take on the [i]wuxia[/i] (Chinese swordsman) genre.

In the early 1990s, movie producers approached Wong Kar-Wai about adapting Louis Cha's [i]wuxia[/i] novel, [i]The Legend of the Condor Heroes[/i]. After struggling with adapting Cha's novel, Kar-Wai decided on a prequel focusing on four characters from Cha's novels, Ouyang Feng (Leslie Cheung), a cynical swordsman who lives in a remote, desert inn and earns a modest living as an agent for other swordsmen. Every spring, an old friend, Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), visits him. They share stories of the previous year's experiences. During his visit, Yaoshi offers Feng a drink from a memory-erasing flask of wine. Together, they share a story involving a woman, Murong Yin / Murong Yang (Brigitte Lin), who disguises herself as a man. Pretending not to see through the ruse, Yaoshi offered to marry Murong, but fails to appear at the appointed time. A heartbroken Murong attempts to convince Feng to kill Yaoshi.

The scene shifts to the story of the Blind Swordsman (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and a young woman (Charlie Yeung) who approaches Feng, hoping to enlist his services as a swordsman to kill several members of a local militia as revenge for the death of her brother. Feng refuses to act directly, but allows the (nearly) Blind Swordsman to take the contract. For the (nearly) Blind Swordsman, attempting to fulfill the contract means almost certain death, but it's his only chance to see the peach blossoms of his distant hometown before he permanently loses his eyesight. [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] also takes in the story of Hong Qi (Jacky Cheung), an impoverished swordsman, and his wife (Bai Li), who refuses to leave his side, and his relationship with the distant Feng.

[i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] circles back, often elliptically (a Wong Kar-Wai trademark), to Feng's past, his romantic relationship with his brother's wife (Maggie Cheung), and their connections to the mysteriously motivated Yaoshi. As in other films from Wong Kar-Wai's oeuvre (and one of central influences, Michelangelo Antonioni), unrequited or lost love and the inability to transcend that unrequited or lost love result in ruminating regret, existential ennui and enervating despair. What [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] doesn't lead to, however, is to the action set pieces [i]wuxia[/i] fans expect from the genre.

While [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] contains several set pieces, they flash by in a blur of motion, light, and color that make it difficult, if not impossible, to tell hero apart from foe (or foes). Shifting the focus from action to character, from the external to the internal, of course, was Wong Kar-Wai's intention all along. That limited (and still limits) the potential audience for [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i]. Outside of Doyle's sensual cinematography, non-cineastes or non-Wong Kar-Wai fans, will find [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] difficult to sit through. For Wong Kar-Wai's fans, however, seeing [i]Ashes of Time Redux[/i] as Wong Kar-Wai intended will prove well worth the decade and a half wait.

Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time
8 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

[I]Andy Goldsworthy ? Rivers and Tides: Working with Time[/I], winner of the Golden Gate Award, Grand Prize For Best Documentary at the 2003 San Francisco International Film Festival, follows Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy engaging in the creation of ephemeral sculptures from natural, preexisting materials in England, Scotland, Japan, Australia, North America, and even the North Pole. For Goldsworthy, art isn't static, frozen in time, but instead, dictated by changing weather and light patterns, and most importantly, the passage of time. In Thomas Riedelsheimer, the director and cinematographer behind [i]Rivers and Tides[/i], and in Fred Frith, the documentary's composer (himself known for his experimentalism and association with John Zorn, among others), Goldsworthy has found collaborators to perfectly complement the exploration of his artwork.

Most of Goldsworthy?s sculptures disappear with the tide or, more slowly, with the changing seasons, dissolving back into the natural world, often leaving no trace of human intervention behind. Goldsworthy chooses to create his ephemeral artwork not in an art studio, but in open fields, beaches, rivers, creeks, and forests (he does, however, photograph his work, paradoxically saving his artwork in a secondary media). For his material, Goldsworthy uses sheets of ice, icicles, snow, driftwood, bracken, leaves, flowers, stones, and sand. For his tools, Goldsworthy uses his hands, unencumbered by gloves, even in frigid, unforgiving conditions. Goldsworthy?s unique approach to sculpture requires an inner awareness and outward manifestation of the connection between art and nature. Goldsworthy rarely works inside an art studio, instead preferring to meld personal expression with nature and natural, sometimes austere, landscapes and bodies of water. His ephemeral sculptures reflect, above all movement, flow, or the potential for movement and renewal. Almost as importantly, by removing the artificial separation between art and nature, and therefore between human creativity and nature, Goldsworthy reproduces the original, primal aesthetic impulse in creating art, of form not just divorced from function, but transcending function into visual, poetic, and spiritual metaphor.

Thomas Riedelsheimer films Goldsworthy as he creates his sculptures in often-harsh, outdoor conditions, opening with Goldsworthy at a frozen, winter-time beach, attempting to create a guardian-like sculpture out of loose rock (Goldsworthy metaphorically refers to one, repeating sculpture as a pinecone, due to the similarity in shapes, and the potential for life hidden inside the pinecone). With the tide hours away, the sculpture collapses, not just once, but several times. Goldsworthy expresses his frustration at being unable to complete his sculpture in time, but he also recognizes that his work occurs at the ?edge of collapse? (an idea he returns to several times during the documentary). Finally completed, the incoming tide overwhelms the stone sculpture. Unlike his other, more ephemeral work made from fragile, natural materials, however, the stone guardian returns with the next, outgoing tide. According to Goldsworthy, the stone guardians act as markers on his personal and professional journey as an artist. The stone guardians are also reminiscent of stone cairns, collections or piles of stones used along mountain paths across the world to mark a specific location, but more meaningfully, as makeshift memorials for the dead.

Later, again working against the incoming tide, Goldsworthy struggles to build a giant nest-like sculpture (a local describes it as a salmon hole) from driftwood on a beach near swirling tide pools. The driftwood is arranged in an open-ended, coiled spiral, a spiral that reflects both upward movement and the swirling movement of water inside a tide pool. After Goldsworthy completes the sculpture, the camera follows the spiral sculpture as the incoming tide first lifts the nest sculpture from the wet ground, and then carries it around a bend in the river, to re-integrate the materials used to create the sculpture back into nature.

En route to Nova Scotia to complete a commissioned work, Goldsworthy talks uneasily about his dislike for traveling (he lives in Scotland with his wife and four children on a sprawling estate). For Goldsworthy, traveling creates a sense of disconnection, not just from his family, but also from a deeper sense of rootedness, contained in his relationship with nature. Once in Nova Scotia, Goldsworthy uses a large stone outcropping as his base, and then uses ice and icicles to create a sinewy trail of ice that appears to disappear and reappear inside the stone. The dawning sun briefly illuminates the new hybrid stone/icicle work, moments before the sun?s rays melt the ice from the stone, dissolving the sculpture into time and memory.

The documentary next examines another commissioned work, the Stone King Park in upstate New York. Here, Goldsworthy designed the work, a giant, snaking, stone wall that wends its way across a forested landscape, interrupted only by a river and dirt roads. Due to the size of the project, the physical work was subcontracted to local stonemasons, with Goldsworthy acting in a supervisory role. At completion, a camera installed on crane travels along the length of the stone wall, then rises to tree level to offer a fuller perspective of the interaction between the wall and its natural surroundings. Riedelsheimer also employs an overhead, birds-eye view, via helicopter, that rises into the sky, further delineating the contours and breadth of the stone wall.

[I]Rivers and Tides[/I] concludes with two, overlapping segments: the first follows Goldsworthy as he collects red, iron-rich stones, crushes them using another rock as a pestle, and releases the red-ochre powder into a moving stream, a waterfall, and into the wind, generating dense, abstract patterns of light and color; the second, teleports Goldsworthy to a wintry landscape as he throws pockets of snow into the wind. Even in the simplest of actions, resembling nothing more than the actions of a curious, if perceptive, child, Riedelsheimer seems to suggest, Goldsworthy?s creativity connects him inextricably, reverently to the natural world.