Review: ‘An American Journey’

Helmer Philippe Seclier haphazardly tosses in anything he happens to encounter on a largely fruitless search.

In 1957, Robert Frank traveled cross-country, snapping some 27,000 photographs, 83 of which he selected for his book “The Americans” — the seminal collection whose emotive power and immediacy revolutionized the aesthetics of photography. “An American Journey” retraces Frank’s travels, but where the photographer painstakingly culled from a rich stock of images (fleetingly spotted on contact sheets or in leafed-through prints), helmer Philippe Seclier haphazardly tosses in anything he happens to encounter on a largely fruitless search. Disappointing docu bows Sept. 30 at Gotham’s Film Forum in conjunction with the Met’s 50th-anniversary celebration of “The Americans.”

Out-of-focus, pseudo-poetic footage of the U.S. shot from a car window, uneventful visits to the locations and people seen in the original photos, and uninspired talking-head interviews with a host of professionals — fellow shutterbugs, curators, critics, Frank’s longtime printer — yield far less visually than any one of Frank’s pictures or, for that matter, any of Frank’s own lively documentaries. “Journey” only briefly perks up at a Frank exhibition in Pingyao, where a Chinese girl in a red cowboy hat pensively peruses the now-familiar prints.

An American Journey

France-U.S.

Production

A Lorber Films release of an Ad Vitam, Selenium Films, Muse Film & Television production. Produced by Judith Nora. Co-producer, Vincent Juillerat. Directed, written by Philippe Seclier.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Seclier; editor, Pauline Gaillard; music, Karol Beffa. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Sept. 28, 2009. French, English, German dialogue. Running time: 58 MIN.

With

Wayne Miller, Raymond Depardon, Sid Kaplan, John Cohen, Anne Tucker, Sarah Greenough, Robert Delpire, Barney Rosset, Gerhard Steidl.
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