He creates art in nature, and then gives it back again

Critic's Picks: New Dvds

November 05, 2006

ANDY GOLDSWORTHY: RIVERS AND TIDES: WORKING WITH TIME (Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition) -- Docurama/New Video / $39.95

In its own quiet, voluptuous way, this unpretentiously brilliant documentary uses the work of Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy to open up the hidden drama of the natural universe. Goldsworthy's method is to invade an untouched setting, "shake hands with it," sense its ruling shapes and rhythms, and use the materials at his fingertips - stones, leaves, ice - to create open-air forms that illuminate their environment. Then he watches as the elements embrace or destroy his work.

This push-pull dynamic deepens and enriches Rivers and Tides and makes it more than simply a gorgeous nature film or an enlightening portrait of an individualistic artist. At low tide in a pool where a river meets the sea, he creates a vortex-like shape from white driftwood, then observes the waters rising and pulling it out and apart. He feels more rooted in the earth precisely because he can't control when weather, gravity or organic growth will enhance his sculptures, split them up, or both.

Goldsworthy refuses to separate the human element from the other elements. In one episode, he lines an existing stone wall with downy wool to recall how shepherding has changed the Scottish landscape. In another, he erects a stone wall for the Storm King Arts Center in Mountainville, N.Y. It commemorates the walling traditions of Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic immigrants. It creates a serpentine river-like pattern on dry land, then intersects with a river, forging the sculptor's favorite kind of connection: between invented and found forms. It also makes a statement on how walls that once fenced trees out of farms now provide spaces in which trees can grow.

Special features

The best new addition proves to be an extensive interview with moviemaker Thomas Riedelsheimer. Watching the movie once, you may not realize what a subtle job Riedelsheimer does of putting the audience in Goldsworthy's boots. In this interview, he reveals the directorial imagination and patience that elicit our total identification with the artist and his work.

ALSO ANTICIPATED

EDWARD R. MURROW: THE BEST OF "PERSON TO PERSON" --Koch Vision / 39.95

Good Night, and Good Luck denigrated Person to Person as the fluffy interview series that gave Ed Murrow the commercial clout to sell serious social-political crusades to CBS. But Murrow's celebrity-interview show, a smash from 1953-'59, emerges in this three-disc collection as a disarming example of how a cultured, curious interviewer can extract revelations from entertainers and politicos alike without wallowing in muck. Murrow just sits in an easy chair, next to a table with an ashtray (he's always smoking), and peers through a mock picture window into the homes of his subjects. The stagy format actually puts famous artists and public servants at ease. Person to Person proves that civility in interviewing can create unguarded moments and unforgettable insights.

MICHAEL SRAGOW

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET: THE COMPLETE SERIES --A&E / $299.95

From the performances of Andre Braugher and Kyle Secor, to the writing of Tom Fontana and James Yoshimura, NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street was one of television's greatest cop dramas.

Tuesday, all seven seasons (1993-'99) of the Baltimore-based series arrive as a mega-set package. It is hard to imagine that network television will ever again be as fearless in telling prime-time stories of crime, social class and race.

This was one of TV's first dramas to depict the urban American landscape as a place of great inequity - and to acknowledge that a hard-eyed look at life and death in the big city could make an existentialist out of anyone.

Special features include three crossover episodes done with NBC's Law & Order, but it is the commentary by producers and writers that really adds value.

Fontana, Yoshimura and producer Julie Martin discuss the final episode, "Forgive Us Our Trespasses," and the insights from Fontana are priceless.

DAVID ZURAWIK

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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