Jerome Hill"s “Film Portrait,” a 90-minute recapitulation of his early years and subsequent career as a movie maker, is an utterly charming swan song by the screen experimentalist who died in 1972 at the age of 67. The film, using old home movie footage, covers his childhood in a happy, wealthy Minnesota home and then shifts to his later avant-garde filming.
There is an endearing freshness to all this. A director, composer and painter, Mr. Hill outlines the course of his career in a simple, crystal-clear narrative. He loved the camera, we sense, as a wonderful toy of unlimited possibilities.
In spite of the acclaim his more conventional documentaries on Albert Schweitzer and Grandma Moses have received, this last work of his may turn out to be the most impressive of his efforts. Everything here flows steadily, skillfully and pointedly, starting with his evocative chapter on his early life in St. Paul, which imaginatively blends photographs, animated stills and color that has the quality of Tiffany glass.
Then as a wealthy young American roaming Europe in the nineteen-twenties, Mr. Hill slips behind the camera and remains there—a determined independent movie-maker, influenced by Dreyer, Melies and other pioneers. The Cocteau influence is obvious as we see in a runoff of his 1930 short, “Fortune Teller,” in a flickering print.
Toward the end, the film dissolves kaleidoscopically within the image of a movie-ola as the spry, aging Mr. Hill demonstrates the vital role of editing (“alchemy”) in his laboratory. These scenes were made shortly before his death. —NYTimes.com
Jerome Hill (2 March 1905, St. Paul, Minnesota – 21 November 1972, New York City) was an American filmmaker and artist. He was born into the family of Louis W. and Maud Van Corlandt Hill, one of the prominent families of Saint Paul and heirs to the railroad fortune of James J. Hill, the famed “Empire Builder.”
He attended St. Paul Academy where, as a student, he first demonstrated skill as an artist. He studied music at Yale University receiving a degree in music. As a student, he took many trips to New York City to see a variety of arts events. After graduation in 1927, he traveled to Europe where he began to study painting, and experiment with still photography and film. While painting Landscapes in the south of France, Hill discovered and purchased a piece of property in Cassis, a scenic port town on the Mediterranean Sea.
Hill’s film endeavors began with Ski Flight (1938), a documentary and instructional film on downhill skiing. Filmed on location at Mt. Rainier in Washington… read more