Presence | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Presence 

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A documentary to savor for its eloquence and life-affirming humanism, this 2003 portrait of Swedish photographer George Oddner uses metaphor to illuminate the creative process: an eddying stream keys memories of childhood summers spent in Estonia, then the rivulet dissolves to a swirling black-and-white print as an instant in time is affixed to paper in a darkroom bath. Jazz riffs accompany Oddner, once a drummer, as he revisits New York and recalls his apprenticeship to Richard Avedon in the 50s. "All form and composition has to do with rhythm," he explains, using a seminal Avedon shot to illustrate how the relationship between a subject and the surrounding space creates balance, tension, and movement in an image. "Only the moment lives," he says--a fitting motto for an artist who has defined his life by capturing forever the human ephemera around him. Jan Troell (The Emigrants) directed. In Swedish with subtitles. 84 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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