- Tom Thomson, like the Beach Boys, is one of those artists who over saturated my youth and thus meant I needed to get some distance before I could begin to appreciate him. What very little art history instruction children receive in elementary school revolves around Thomson and the Group of Seven (at least it did when I was in school) and when coupled with my high school teacher who was nearly obsessive about Thomson, it was easy to grow sick of the man and the myth.
I think part of it is that much Canadian mythology revolves around the kind of things Thomson represents — lone man against The North™, looking for truth in the harsh reality of the landscape, blah blah blah. These kind of myths annoy me for a variety of reasons — they erase millennia of aboriginal peoples doing the exact same thing without fanfare and reverence; they reduce Canadian identity to a monolithic experience that revolves around a single thing that ignores the plurality of experiences in current Canadian identity, etc. — and while I recognize their importance and significance in the same era that other nation-building events were taking place (Thomson died the same year as Vimy Ridge, for example), I like to think there are other things that define us as Canadians in the modern era.
And, I mean, I’ve done the Tom Thomson thing. I’ve canoed, camped, and painted (not well!) on Canoe Lake. I’ve visited with reverence the memorial cairn. But it’s not something that I connect to, not really.
Anyway, sidebar. My feelings, let me show them to you.
- This documentary was a little too NFB, and not in a good way but in that 1960s, rent-for-your-classroom-on-VHS-in-the-1980s kind of way. I know it’s hard to share first-person stories when all the people in the story are dead, but the voice-overs reading letters to and from Thomson and his friends were a little awkward and occasionally cheesy. Same with the angsty dude with the floppy hair stalking around the forest, fishing and painting. I think I’m just not into re-enactments and prefer talking heads.
- SO MUCH LOG DRIVING! I kind of wished that they’d break out into The Log Driver’s Waltz, but clearly this did not happen.
- In all of their discussion about Thomson’s painting technique, they failed to address my favourite thing about his work: how he lets the orangey-brown of his boards shine through the paint because he never fully covers the surface in paint. It just makes everything absolutely crackle and is so, so great. Love it. I think that’s why I may just prefer the immediacy of his sketches rather than the more refined finished products.
- I don’t have too much to say about this, really. This movie is perfectly adequate for n00bs to the Tom Thomson story but didn’t really have anything terribly revelatory in it if you already have lots of experience with the man, the myth, the legend.
Categories: 3 Stars