The Island of St. Matthews Screen 5 articles

The Island of St. Matthews

2013

The Island of St. Matthews Poster
  • Like an unedited roll of film stock whose colors have dulled from sitting out in the humid sun for too long, this lethargic document of a waterlogged, hermetically sealed Mississippi rural community ambles along to the lulling hum of a motorboat or the distant creak of a dam door closing and opening, the only challenge to its slumber being the intermittent ringing of a church bell, itself at least six decibels below the default din of super-compressed modern sound mixes.

  • Everson's background in visual art is evident in his taste for obscurity, which manifests itself in static long takes in which very little happens. This tendency occasionally grows tiresome — one shot in particular of a lock glacially opening may try the patience of even seasoned James Benning fans — but for the most part it yields a sort of hypnotic beauty. At its best, the film does the job of the albums lost to the floods: It captures a town's history.

  • With his understanding of these elements, Everson is able to present bits of visual reportage that conceal their points beneath a simple sheen of verité. By simply observing, he uses his camera as a tool to shore up recollections and expand perspectives, allowing his subjects the rare opportunity to define themselves rather than be defined, allying his camera with their viewpoints.

  • It’s a quiet, measured film that allows the river its time and the people to speak at their own pace. Work, leisure, faith, and environment are inseparably entwined.

  • [Everson's] sixth feature-length film, The Island of St. Matthews, takes a fascinatingly oblique approach to exploring the tensions between nature, labor, and memory. As with his past works, its construction is deceptively simple, harboring conceptual and sensual intricacies that are equally manifest in the grain and light leaks of the 16mm stock (transferred to digital) and in the contemplative mood the film engenders.

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