Directed by Peter Raymont, Michele Hozer. 94 min. Opens April 20 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Already honoured with an iconic Canadian feature film (Joyce Wieland’s The Far Shore) and a song by an iconic Canadian band (The Tragically Hip’s “Three Pistols”), the great homegrown painter Tom Thomson finally gets the documentary treatment in West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson.
That it comes courtesy of Peter Raymont and Michele Hozer is no surprise, given the duo’s interest in profiling idiosyncratic artists: their last effort examined the life and work of Glenn Gould. That film was animated by the presence of its subject in clips showcasing his wit; by contrast, West Wind has to conjure Thomson mostly out of biographical data, interviews with art historians, and generous glimpses of his influential output. The film’s loveliest feature is the way that Raymont and Hozer cut between real Algonquin Park vistas and Thomson’s paintings, which simultaneously reveres the works’ underlying authenticity and emphasizes their subtly imaginative exaggeration of natural colours and hues.
Of course, the hook for any film about Tom Thomson is his mysterious death by drowning in 1917 at the age of 39, and Raymont and Hozer wisely refrain from any lurid speculation—they have more questions than answers. But perhaps West Wind has too much decorum: It’s intelligent documentary filmmaking that’s also a little bit dull.