Having recently screened at retrospectives in Madrid and Paris, Hopper’s Silence is one of the great art documentaries from one of the world’s most authoritative figures on Edward Hopper. Director Brian O’Doherty (widely known in the art world for his seminal text “Inside the White Cube”) uses a subtle combination of observation and interview footage to shed a surprising amount of insight and information on one of America’s most beloved modern artists. Also available in September is Kartemquin’s long overdue The Last Pullman Car. As the historic Pullman neighborhood continues to struggle with gang violence on Chicago’s South Side, look back at the history from filmmakers who’ve chronicled life in Chicago for decades.
One of the most recognizable works of American art, Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks” encapsulates the alienation and loneliness of the modern urban milieu. His haunting, enigmatic paintings are defined by a hard-edged realism and the presence of isolated figures alone in their thoughts. In life, Hopper was notoriously taciturn and seldom gave interviews or appeared in public. Director Brian O’Doherty, who knew Hopper and his wife, Jo, offers a rare documentary portrait of this aloof artist that is astute and revealing. O’Doherty compares the paintings to the locations that inspired them to suggest the connection between style and subject. “Offers interesting and pragmatic insights and avoids undue presumption or esoteric analysis” (NY Times). “An exquisite portrait of this quiet artist and his world” (Getty Center).
Brian O’Doherty—USA—1981—47 mins.
In 1864, George Pullman began selling his famous railroad sleeping cars, which helped him build a vast industrial empire that was supposed to last forever. A model of the modern employer, Pullman had constructed a self-sustaining village for his workers just outside Chicago, with its own school, sewage system, and public works. However, nothing lasts forever, and by 1981, Pullman workers found themselves in the midst of a fight not only for their jobs but the future of the American rail car industry. The Last Pullman Car traces 100 years in the history of this unique company that grappled with government, union and corporate policies. “Never intrusive and avoiding obvious, human interest techniques, Pullman Car makes the members of local 1834 come alive on their own terms” (Larry Kart, Chicago Tribune). “This film is a battlecry!” (Studs Terkel).
Gordon Quinn/Jerry Blumenthal/Jenny Rohrer/Greg LeRoy—USA—1983—56 mins.