The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger Screen 13 articles

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger

2016

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger Poster
  • One of Berger's abiding concerns in [Ways of Seeing] is to uncover the ways that art historians and connoisseurs have sought to "mystify rather than clarify." Unfortunately, a similar kind of obfuscation marks The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, a warm and heartfelt but too often desultory and disorganized tribute to the down-to-earth intellectual.

  • The film can be rough going for those who know little of Berger’s work. That’s especially true of the second part, a stupefying collage about Berger’s home in rural Quincy, France. Part three grapples with Berger’s views on capitalism (he dislikes it)... Part one, a talk with Swinton that touches on their war-veteran fathers, and part four, which shows Swinton’s teenage twins connecting first with Berger and then with his son, hold the most interest. Overall, it’s a film made by fans, for fans.

  • The first, Colin MacCabe's "Ways of Listening," is the most evocative... Christopher Roth's "Spring" is affected and thus less affecting, and MacCabe and Bartek Dziadosz's "A Song for Politics" awkwardly disconnects from the seasonal theme. The autumnal fourth film, directed by Swinton and fittingly titled "Harvest," returns to the easy eloquence of the first and concludes the collection on a joyful note. This might have worked better as a more cohesive documentary.

  • It seems unlikely, but there are several sections in the third “portrait” (MacCabe’s), that make you wonder whether the whole thing is an elaborate joke... This would fix in a satiric framework Berger’s idealization of the “peasant,” his refusal to see that his humble hideaway in a privileged utopia is available only to the one percent he derides... But that would be to credit those involved with a great deal more self-awareness than seems available.

  • The film actually plays as a rejoinder to a line by Adrienne Rich in her poem “Images for Godard”: a fear of the moment “when all conversation becomes an interview under duress.” The Seasons in Quincy instructs us that conversation, whether spoken or sung, is always liberating.

  • The tired formal tics suggest an impoverishment of expressive means within contemporary radical aesthetics, but Mr. Berger himself exhibits no such lack. For all its shortcomings, “The Seasons in Quincy” is an essential document of an exemplary intellect, one who has as much to impart to the 21st century as he did to the 20th.

  • If The Seasons in Quincy fails to give us Berger the myth, which we want, then through subtle details—his gestures, his glances, and even his phrasings—you can glean something here about Berger the man, things you never knew about the depths of his intelligence. It’s more than any orthodox documentary could convey.

  • How best to cover the life and times of one of Britain’s foremost poetic thinkers, John Berger, on film? Give him the linear This Is Your Life treatment, with fawning endorsements from friends and family? Stick to a single, salient episode and go into minute detail? Or maybe opt for something a little more kooky and conceptual? The Seasons in Quincy goes for a little bit of all three routes, offering more remedial material for Berger newbies and a some deep-dive stuff for the superfans.

  • ...Is it mere coincidence that the one subject who shuns these toxic traits belongs to the most formally ambitious and successful of the films mentioned thus far? That would be art writer John Berger—the focus of The Seasons in Quincy, which consists of four short cinematic portraits by as many directors—a writer whose sensitivity to nuance relates directly to his profound and intricately developed sense of morality, which is explored in great detail in this composite film.

  • Berger continues to live, farm, and work in Quincy. He is famous for being a gracious host and inspiring presence—something like a sane D. H. Lawrence—and many readers have likely dreamt of visiting him in the Alps, which is one of the reasons this new documentary, The Seasons In Quincy, makes for such delightful viewing. Shot largely in and around Berger's home, Quincy is at once an homage to and intimate portrait of the artist.

  • Less any kind of official documentary than a cleverly homespun movie mosaic, The Seasons in Quincy is a joint effort from several directors, most notably the top-notch Godard biographer Colin MacCabe, and the glorious art-eminence Tilda Swinton. The portraits are glancing—and, like Berger’s books, sometimes amazingly unalike—but the best glances linger meaningfully and go a long way.

  • A stimulating, deeply moving four-part essay about John Berger, whose book Ways of Seeing changed our relationship with art and culture.

  • This is a film that celebrates the exchange of ideas, creating a microcosm for independent thought that is every bit as fertile as the fecund mountain farmlands where Berger made his home. But for all the radical political treatises, there is a sense of peace here also – nowhere better shown than in a lovely scene in which Berger and Tilda Swinton sit, perfectly at ease, making a pie and chatting about dads.