You know you are in great hands three seconds into West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. A documentary about an important painter should be a work of art and this one is. It opens with shots of Algonquin Park interspersed with shots of Thomson's work and the words Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer. No documentarian could possibly do better than that. It only gets better. Anybody even remotely interested in Canadian art must watch this brilliant 95-minute documentary. Its world broadcast premiere is Sunday October 7th at 10 p.m on Bravo!
Associated with the Group of Seven painters, Tom Thomson is the most mysterious. He died the youngest under still unexplained circumstances and his body may be buried in two different places.
Hozer and Raymont use archival footage, photographs, audio, and texts, commentary from various Thomson experts like biographer Roy MacGregor, collector David Thomson, and art historians to tell part of the story. They also use an actor to inhabit Thomson in certain scenes. The attention to detail is such that the painter's hands actually have grime under the nails and paint stains on the fingers.
West Wind elegantly blends art history and biography to allow the viewer to better understand how Thomson evolved from commercial artist to artist. It also segues nicely from the real locations Thomson painted to the paintings and back to the locations.
Though extremely informative, there is not a single didactic moment in West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson.. The information flows as gracefully as the images themselves. The section on the effect of WW I on Thomson and his colleagues is particularly interesting.
West Wind refers to one of Thomson's best known paintings. It is used quite beautifully near the end of the documentary to illustrate a few things about Thomson and the turbulent times.
The documentary closes with the mystery behind Thomson's death and the burials of his body.
Granted, I am a sucker for a good documentary and not much of an art connaiseur but West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson is a yardstick by which other such films must now be measured.