The Visual Language of Herbert Matter — “What makes a great artist is someone capable of creating a body of work that can communicate with the masses…” so we are told in this documentary on the amazing career of Herbert Matter. The same, I would suggest, goes for filmmakers. Although this film gave me a new appreciation for the immense and diverse body of work of Matters, it did not give me enough personal information about him to feel any emotional connection, what so ever.
The film is replete with fascinating never-before-seen vintage film footage, beautiful photographs and inspiring graphic design. The filmmaker makes a very valiant attempt to liven up the still photographs with visual effects and some interesting editing, but it just isn’t enough to keep you engaged for a full 90 minutes.
The film is interspersed with talking head interviews, most of which are almost sleep-inducing in both delivery and editing. The one exception is the interview with the head of archives at Conde Nast Magazine. His interview is fascinating, educational and entertaining. There are some other high points in this documentary. The short montage of Matter’s work is visually exciting, and the last five minutes of the film include an interview with his son and grandson that give us a moving, although brief, look at the personal and family life of Matter.
There is no denying that Herbert Matter was one of the most talented and under-appreciated graphic designers of our time and if you are an artist of any medium, but especially a photographer or graphic artist, you will want to see this film. Does this film communicate with the masses? I don’t think so — it is just too long and slow moving.
Thurs. • Feb. 9 • Odeon Th2 • 9:30pm
Director: Marc Bisaillon
Québec • 2011 • 91 min • HDCam
Review by Kathleen Gilbert, Film Commissioner Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission