Budapest Portrait may be his strongest essay yet on the naturalization of the urban landscape. For Hutton, the city is less a social matrix than a verdant asphalt jungle. Close-up portraits of two ancient rag-pickers and a succession of elderly peasant women aside, virtually every other person shown is dominated by the surroundings. Human presence is often suggested merely by indexical signs – photographs, shadows or bullet holes. This relative absence of the figure, together with the harsh chiaroscuro of the winter light, induces a poignant sense of loneliness and isolation. Voluptuously gray, worn and lived in, the city is like a stage set for an invisible drama. —J. Hoberman, Artforum
Peter Hutton (b. 1944, Detroit) is one of cinema’s most ardent and poetic portraitists of city and landscape. A former merchant seaman, he has spent nearly forty years voyaging around the world, often by cargo ship, to create sublimely meditative, luminously photographed, and intimately diaristic studies of place, from the Yangtze River to the Polish industrial city of Lodz, and from northern Iceland to a ship graveyard on the Bangladeshi shore. This comprehensive retrospective of eighteen films reveals an artist dedicated to reawakening a more contemplative and spontaneous way of observing and envisioning the world.
Whether seeking remembrance of a city’s fading past or reflecting on nature’s fugitive atmospheric effects, Hutton sculpts with time; each film unfolds in silent reverie, with a series of extended single shots taken from a fixed position, harking back to cinema’s origins and to traditions of painting and still photography. “Like the haiku of Bashô,” the scholar Tom… read more