the farmer's wife

Jack Levine: Feast of Pure Reason



"I'm like the dog at the circus who runs the wrong way under the hoop."

-Jack Levine

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This bold and unconventional film portrait reveals America's foremost Social Realist painter doing what he does best: skewering corrupt politicians and police, raging over social injustices, and satirizing the petty foibles of humankind. Jack Levine got his professional start during the Federal Art Projects of the WPA, and quickly became world famous for his brilliantly painted, brutally ironic vision of America and the world. He is the only American artist who never stopped painting as a Social Realist, even when it went out of vogue in the 1950's and 1960's. "I'm alone at the old stand. . . I feel I still have something to say. . . Let the avant garde go hang-the human condition is what interests me." A self-imposed 'outsider', Levine has deliberately cut himself off from the mainstream: "I'm like the little dog at the circus who runs the wrong way under the hoop."

No one is immune from Levine's sharp eye and keen sense of irony, as his works attest, ranging from the McCarthy hearings of the 50's, the desegregation of the South, Mayor Daley at the 1968 Chicago Convention, the United Nations, Frank Sinatra and Las Vegas showgirls, contemporary political leaders, and international arms brokers.

Sutherland's innovative approach to documentary filmmaking--making the artist both subject and host without intervention of narrator or interviewer--is eminently suited to this articulate and outspoken individual who talks with a charming mix of erudition and the street lingo picked up during his childhood on the streets of Boston's South End. Sutherland's technique creates an exceptionally intimate relationship with the film's subject. . . eliciting startling revelations about the man and his art. Following his well-known series on the Kings and Sages of Israel, Levine has recently completed "Saul and David" in which he depicts himself as King Saul. . . ''Because I'm bad. . . I see myself as Saul, angry at the young David about to succeed me. . . I feel that way about the new generation of artists." Levine talks about his flesh paintings while standing before a nude model at the Copley Society of Boston, and reveals his passion for painting human flesh: "I use every excuse I can to work it into my oeuvre."

The Arms Brokers Jack Levine is a complex individual and Sutherland has accomplished a dazzling feat in capturing the many sides of this American Master. We get to know Jack Levine the intellectual--who for years has been one of forty members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters--and Levine the street tough. . . Levine the sports fan gives way to the playful Levine baiting an old friend about past embarrassments. . . A bereaved husband in one scene becomes the acerbic social satirist in another. . . Levine the reverent painter of Kings of Israel turns at other times into a man of fury, raging a solo battle against abstract expressionism and the New York art world. . . these vignettes combine here to create an unusually intimate and well-rounded documentary which shows Jack Levine to be a multi-faceted and brilliant painter, witty and erudite, but always compassionate--an American Master in his prime at age 70.

Producer and Director: David Sutherland. Screenplay: David Sutherland, Nancy Sutherland, Theresa Cederholm. Executive Producer: Theresa Cederholm. Artistic Director: Nancy Sutherland. Cinematographer: Joe Seamans. Editor: Mavis Lyons Smull. Original Music: Edward Korvin.

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