West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson
Winter 2012 Documentary series
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 7:00pm
Directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont
Screenplay by Nancy Lang
Rated NR ·
English and French
West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thompson
Note to our viewers: Nancy Lang, the film’s researcher and co-producer will introduce the film and offer a Q & A afterwards.
The cultural fascination with painter Tom Thomson is beyond measure – not only have his paintings become a foundation in Canadian art history, but his story and mysterious death have become the stuff of lore. Thomson has been the subject of plays, songs, poems, and even board games, and art lovers have traveled from across the world to walk in his footsteps in Algonquin Park.
The risk of this cultural ascendancy, however, is a detachment from the truth that is Tom Thomson – that is, the love and passion that compelled Thomson to paint is sometimes lost in the surplus of clichés that have come to be associated with him. But every once in a while, a new perspective is created which breaks through to the heart of the story and to the man.
This is the case with West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson, a new documentary by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont, (Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould) that brings the story of Tom Thomson to life as they explore the personal struggles and cultural forces that led Thomson to realize his greatest works of art.
Beyond the gripping historical footage from the early 20th century, as well as the use of audiotapes, which lends the film a haunting air of realism, West Wind creates a beautiful portrait of Algonquin Park, Thomson’s muse, which allows viewers to grasp Thomson’s own conceptions of beauty and experience it for themselves.
The film also manages to balance the serene landscapes of Algonquin with the tumult of the war years, which plays a pivotal role in the documentary, as it did Thomson’s life. By contrasting these opposing forces, the drive for destruction and that of creation, the film portrays the conflicting emotions that must have plagued the artist and must have influenced the furious pace of his final works, where he completed sixty three sketches during his last spring in Algonquin Park, before his tragic end.
The heart and soul of the film belongs to David Thomson, an avid collector of Tom Thomson’s works, who manages to describe Thomson’s paintings with such emotion and compassion that the audience feels close to something sacred, not only in Thomson’s art, but in art itself. It benefits, too, from interviews with some of the leading Thomson scholars, including Ross King, David Silcox, Joanne Murray, Dennis Reid, and Roy Macgregor, who clearly explain some of the many complexities surrounding the artist, the man, and his mysterious death.
There’s no denying that the West Wind: A Vision of Tom Thomson is an important addition to the culture of Tom Thomson, but its major success is beyond its scholarship and its well-crafted story-telling – it contains a beauty entirely of its own, a testament to the art of filmmaking. – Kelly Dodge, Algonquin Art Centre