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Rembrandt: Painter of Man (1957)

Rembrandt, schilder van de mens (original title)

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May 1957 (France)  »

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Rembrandt  »

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Haanstra documentary approaches perfection
22 October 2010 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

As a dyed-in-the-wool Bert Haanstra fan I still wasn't prepared for the brilliance of his REMBRANDT: PAINTER OF MAN. This is documentary film at its highest level.

The 20-minute opus consists solely of pan & scan (for detail) shots of actual Rembrandt paintings, with a helpful narrator (in Dutch or English) giving the key details of his life and the import of his work, ranging from portraits to the legendary "Night Watch".

In a new interview included on the DVD Haanstra details how much hard work went into a single sequence, the classic use of matched dissolves to show how Rembrandt "aged" over the years, superimposing shots of his evolving self-portraits (posed facing exactly the same way), corrected for scale and then lap-dissolving one into the next. The effect, created by Haanstra in 1957, is just like the now commonly-used "morphing" we see via CGI in almost any sci-fi or horror fantasy film, but he had to invent it and slave over it to make it work seamlessly back then.

To call this "must viewing" (or as Jonas Mekas here at Anthology Film Archives in NYC puts it: "essential cinema") is obvious, yet few among today's generation of film buffs have seen the body of Haanstra's work. It's their loss.


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