'Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning'
(Dorothea Lange / DVD / NR / 2014 / PBS)
Overview: More than four decades of 20th-century America are filtered through Lange's life and lens -- her creations and achievements; her tragedies and losses. Known for her powerful images from the Great Depression; her haunting "Migrant Mother" remains emblematic of that period.
DVD Verdict: Not my favorite American Masters production. Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and their FSA contemporaries were brilliant in documenting the human anguish, weariness and fortitude of the Great Depression. But rather than focus on Lange herself, the film pays equal homage to the director's grandfather, Paul Taylor, Lange's second husband. We see extensive footage of his field work prior to meeting Lange. The structure has awkward transitions: Lange's Depression images are followed by talking heads analyzing her marriage to Taylor (opinions remote as Taylor's son in-law) then back again to Depression dust bowl.
Most tedious was steady ethereal new-age music from opening frame to final— similar to getting a massage. I missed hearing Americana ballads born in the eras Lange photographed. These odes say much about creative release during human struggle. Hearing them in context to her images would energize the film.
My patience was rewarded with focus on Lange herself, and insights from museum curators. Lange's images are ever-evocative icons seared into the American psyche. Her work held my interest during the film's lengthy two-hour run. [SF] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.