Review: The Windmill Movie DVD

STUDIO: Zeitgeist | DIRECTOR: Alexander Olch
3/22/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.99
two Richard Rogers short films, essay by Scott Foundas
NR | 82 min. | Documentary | 1.33:1 fullscreen | stereo and 5.1 surround

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The Windmill Movie movie scene

Shards of The Hamptons cut through the glare in The Windmill Movie.

The concept behind The Windmill Movie is as fascinating as the movie itself.

Here it is: Filmmaker and teacher Richard P. Rogers (co-director of the outstanding 1991 Nicaragua documentary Pictures From a Revolution) died in 2001, leaving behind hundreds of hours of footage for an autobiographical documentary that he never finished. His widow, the acclaimed photographer Susan Meisalas (who co-directed Pictures with her husband), commissioned one of Rogers’ former students, Alexander Olch, to make a movie out of the pieces, which included footage Rogers shot, old home movie clips, and Rogers himself watching the footage). Olch’s resulting construction is The Windmill Movie.

And that construction is less a documentary than an essay film. It jaggedly but emotionally follows Rogers. Raised in the Hamptons, his life was seemingly filled with family vacations and summers at the beach, all roughly tweaked by his tough-as-nails mother who found domineering drama in the simplest of actions (like sitting in a lawn chair).

Into his adult years, Rogers’ life is much more, well, adult, and the tensions and stakes are raised. Or raised as much as we can gather from what we’re seeing in the footage. The interpretation is left to us, though some of the material — nasty family fights, in particular — doesn’t require too much second-guessing.

It’s definitely a unique kind of portrait that works on a more gut level than a traditional narrative. There were occasional valleys, but The Windmill Movie kept me spinning the whole time.

Extras include two previously unreleased short films by Richard Rogers: Elephants: Fragments of an Argument and 226-1690 (aka The Answering Machine Movie). They’re both pretty neat, particularly the latter wherein Rogers serves up a year’s worth of messages from his answering machine.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.