An utterly fascinating documentary that did not get the kind of audience it deserved during its release last year, filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer's focus on Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy in "Rivers and Tides" is never less than compelling. Goldsworthy uses various forms of nature - sticks, icicles, rocks, flowers and other various items - to create intricate and beautiful sculptures. The big thing is, that Goldsworthy actually creates these sculptures in nature, meaning that the creation is often a race against time, with the tides eventually, inevitably coming in to wash it away.
Goldsworthy discusses his philosophies that drive him to do what he does - primarily, to gain an understanding of the energy in nature and an appreciation for the constant cycle involved. One of the artist's pieces mets within several hours. We see another float off, while others are either swallowed by the tide or by overgrowth. While there are moments of frustration, Goldsworthy displays a remarkable understanding and philosophy regarding the way that he gives his work back to nature, saying that the sea will make even more of one particular piece.
The film travels with the artist to France, Scotland and NY. In NY, he goes to the Storm King Art Center to try and create a winding stone wall of remarkable length. The projects that are deemed not to be permanent are then photographed, allowing Goldsworthy to spend time in the lab, refreshing his creativity with a break in-between his outdoor projects. While indoors, we even see the artist's wife, who asks skeptically what he's off to create that day.
Despite being rather tranquil and mediative, "Rivers and Tides" manages to be nicely paced, as despite his soft-spoken nature, Goldsworthy provides some interesting thoughts on his work and remains and engaging character throughout. Despite being shot on what appears to be a fairly low budget, the film looks great, with lovely cinematography. Overall, "Rivers and Tides" is a very engaging portrait of this unique talent.
VIDEO: "Rivers and Tides" is presented by Docurama in approx. 1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. The image quality is generally quite fine, as the film is presented with transfer quality that one would expect from a fairly low-budget production. Sharpness and detail are generally fine, as the picture appears crisp and shows respectable definition. The picture never appeared terribly sharp or well-defined, but it didn't look too noticably soft, either.
Flaws generally did not get in the way of the presentation. Some minor, intentional grain was present in several scenes, but it didn't cause much distraction. Light edge enhancement and a couple of traces of pixelation also occured, but these issues were hardly visible. The print appeared to be in fine shape, with no specks, marks or other faults. Colors appeared natural and accurate, with no smearing.
SOUND: "Rivers and Tides" is presented in 2.0 audio. The documentarie's audio is very pleasant, as it clearly captures both the sounds of nature and the artist's dialogue. Some score is occasionally present, as well. Audio seemed clear and clean, with no concerns. A 5.1 soundtrack, just to have the surrounds get involved a little more with some of the ambient sounds, would have been nice, but this is just fine.
EXTRAS: The main supplements on the first disc stay the same as the prior release. We get seven "short films" (Storm King Wall, Leaf Horn, Ice Arch, Garlic Leaf Line, Black Stone/Rain Shadow, Ice Cake, Colored Leaf Hole) that look more specifically at Goldsworthy and some of his creations. These seem more like cut scenes than separate featurettes, and run about 40 minutes total. Also included are promos for other Docurama titles.
The second disc is where viewers will find the new additions. They start with "Snowballs in Summer", a 19-minute look at Goldsworthy's 2000 experiment: 13 giant snowballs that were left mysteriously on the streets of London during a particularly hot Summer day. They were left to melt, revealing various objects that were placed inside. It's a pretty neat piece to watch and there are a couple of little bits of explanation scattered throughout to give some insight. It's also quite amusing to see people's reactions to a giant snowball randomly sitting in the street.
The other main extra is a 45-minute interview with director Thomas Riedelsheimer. The director discusses meeting Goldsworthy, as well as his thoughts on the artist's work, his approach to the film, working with Goldsworthy and much more. This documentary is insightful and informative, but it is Riedelsheimer talking for nearly an hour in front of a poster for the film. Some clips from the making of the movie or the movie itself might have mixed things up nicely and illustrated some of the director's points.
Additionally, the set comes housed in a lovely book, with each disc housed inside each of the covers.
Final Thoughts: "Rivers and Tides" is a fascinating, meditative journey along with an artist whose nature-based creations often having only a matter of time before nature swallows them up. "Rivers and Tides" is a wonderful gift for any artist on your holiday list. While this new set does come with crisp packaging, the bonus features are likely only going to be watched once by many. Those who are looking to get the film should seek out the very nice single disc edition, while those who already have that edition have no need to upgrade here. Those who still are interested in the new bonus features should rent the bonus disc via Netflix.
The Film B+