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Documentary - Hopper s Silence

Hopper s Silence

Originally relesased 1981
Facets 2012
46 minutes

Interesting but not particularly useful. This is a pretty good summation of Hopper's Silence, a 1980 documentary on Edward Hopper originally produced for the Whitney Museum and now available on DVD thanks to Facets. Director and documentarian Brian Doherty uses stills of Hopper's paintings, footage from the 1980 vernissage of Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist exhibit at the Whitney Museum, and footage from a black  and white TV interview Doherty did with the Hoppers. The original film is in good conditon with the very occasional feschrift.

Though Hopper's Silence has some great moments. Doherty excels at framing his images in a very Hopper-like way so you sometimes get the impression you are looking at a painting until you see something move. He also does an excellent job of blending painting with the real life location and using successive sketches to show the evolution towards the final image.

It is however hampered by a couple of things.

One is the sound quality. Sound is often muffled so the commentary is sometimes hard to decipher. This is even truer of the black and white footage. I found myself wishing the original documentary has been restored. Subtitles would have been a good option.

Another has to do with a couple of choices Doherty made or was forced to make for Hopper's Silence. He has a scene where John Clancy, the painter's dealer, Whitney Museum curator Lloyd Goodrich, and a family friend are on a commuter train discussing Hopper while a young family can be clearly heard right behind them. The opening scene where Helen Hayes is placed in front of an overhead projection of a letter to read an analysis of Josephine Hopper's handwriting is also rather a hard choice to explain.

Last is the documentary has an old-timey, forties feel to it.

Hopper's Silence ends with a couple of very telling lines. One is Hopper said he tried to paint inside and outside at the same time or being there and not being there simultaneously.

I was hoping this documentary DVD would be a good teaching tool. It is not. As an overall idea of Hopper, it works.

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