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The Fantastic World of M. C. Escher
The Fantastic World of M C Escher
Actor: M.C. Escher
Director: Michele Emmer
Genres: Documentary
NR     2006     0hr 50min

Explores the life and work of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. Genre: Documentary Rating: NR Release Date: 11-APR-2006 Media Type: DVD


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Movie Details

Actor: M.C. Escher
Director: Michele Emmer
Creators: Carlo Cerchio, Elio Bisignani, Giulio Battiferri, Floriana D'Ambrosio
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Studio: Acorn Media
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/11/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 50min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A cerebral look at a remarkable artist
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 06/11/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am glad I viewed Acorn Media's "The Life and Works of M.C. Escher" before this tape. Although the tapes overlap a bit on the biographical details, "The Fascinating World" gives a much deeper insight into Escher's art. Particularly interesting are the analyses of some of his more famous tessellations, made more comprehensible by rotating transparent outlines around pivot points to show how the artist planned his patterns. Particularly interesting is the explanation of his false-perspective prints by Penrose, who claims to have (with his father) given Escher the idea. And wait until you see the three dimensional versions of the "impossible" shapes, one of which showed up in the recent and lamentable "The Avengers" film: the steps that always go up! The only annoying feature is the English narration given over the Dutch and Italian "talking heads," some of which are a drier than needs be; but such is the stuff of documentaries. I strongly suggest every math department in high schools and colleges purchase this tape for geometry classes as well as art departments to give the students a challenge of a different sort."
An explanation of the math Escher used
Charles Ashbacher | Marion, Iowa United States( | 02/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Maurits Cornelis Escher was an amazing artist as well as a superb applied mathematician. His figures apply various forms of symmetry in ways that can keep you looking for hours, at the end of which you will find yet another pattern inside those you saw when you first looked. While somewhat primitive, the computer animations of the figures allow you to better visualize how the figure was constructed.
The most illustrative techniques are when the narrator uses a simple device of a tack in the figure. This allows the narrator to rotate a figure around the tack, which demonstrates how the figures are symmetric in alternate quadrants and equal in quadrants separated by one.
Many of Escher?s figures are based on what are called impossible figures. These are geometric structures that cannot exist in three-dimensional space, but can be projected on a two-dimensional surface. Roger Penrose narrates this portion, demonstrating that sections of the figure are possible, and if it is cut and rotated the right way, appears to be a different figure. I enjoyed this a great deal, finally learning how Escher?s famous print of the endless waterfall was constructed.
Mathematicians and artists can appreciate this tape and it should be in every academic library. This is the best example of the marriage between art and mathematics that I have ever encountered. Published in Mathematics and Computer Education, reprinted with permission."
Wonderful; NOT the definitive documentary
David H. Peterzell | San Diego, CA United States | 08/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The definitive video documentary of M.C. Escher does not exist. Trust me, I've looked. Such a video would portray the graphic artist's life, personality, and psyche convincingly. It would map his creative process, charting change and growth across his lifespan. It would feature friends, family, artists, perceptual scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. It would explain the mathematical gymnastics and perceptual principles underlying fantastic images and illusions. It would show antecedents such as Arabian mosaics or Hogarth's classic frontispiece. It would introduce Escher's contemporaries like Oscar Reutersvard and Roger Penrose, and consider Escher's legacy, as reflected in the art and science of Roger Shepard, Scott Kim, Vladimir Kush, Octavio Ocampo, David MacDonald, Irvine Peacock, Rob Gonsalves, Akiyoshi Kitayoka, and others. And of course, the video would provide original, mind-bending animations that move and act in ways implied by Escher's still images. Without fantastic visuals that go beyond anything that you can find in a book, why would you even need a video presentation? It is important to get this part right because Escher's art ripens with prolonged, deep inspection. Brief video clips deprive Escher's intricate universe of its essence.

Even though I couldn't find my dream documentary on Escher, I found some remarkable products. Moreover, in this age of cannibalized, downloadable internet movies and mash-ups, I was able to find lots of great stuff online and create my own homemade movies that I use in my psychology courses on sensation and perception, and on cognitive psychology.

Three remarkable documentaries are worth a look. The one reviewed here is "The Fantastic World of M.C. Escher: A Look at the Life and Works of the Famous Graphic Artist" (Michelle Emmer, Acorn Media, 1980, 50 min). A DVD of this documentary was released earlier this year, though it contains no additional new material. The others include "The Life and Works of M.C. Escher" (Acorn Media, 60 min), which I have reviewed at [...], and "Adventures in Perception: The Work of the Graphic Artist Maurits Escher" (van Gelder, The Roland Collection, 1973, 21 min). Additionally, free and lively video clips can be found at websites for The MC Escher Foundation website, Al Seckel/Masters of Illusion, the Droste Effect, the Cybermuse gallery, and the Escher Lego Website. Additionally, the Escher Centennial book comes with a CD-ROM containing video content.

The Emmer documentary included some of my "essentials," and it is a work of art in its own right. It has clever and informative animations that have a dark Edward-Gorey-like feel in some cases. It features interviews with Escher's friend Bruno Ernst discussing Escher in Italy, crystallographer and collaborator Caroline McGillarvry discussing Escher's Mosaics, and the great mathematician H.S.M. Coxeter discussing Escher's tessellations and the hyperbolic geometry that he taught Escher. There's an interview with the mathematician acquaintance Roger Penrose that is remarkable as much for its `60s era wallpaper and sofa as it is for its content. And there are interviews with a couple people I didn't recognize. The video's soundtrack features a striking theme by Ennio Morricone (of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" fame). It features Roger Shepard's classic ascending impossible tones, but gives credit to Bell Labs rather than to Shepard himself.

The film follows a sensible format that offers rewarding tidbits but omits much. The video begins by asking, "who was Escher?," but fails dismally in its attempt to answer this question. Rather, it succeeds in charting Escher's creative trajectory, to a limited extent. It focuses first on Escher's early work in Italy. We learn and see plenty, as Escher begins to impose a meticulous geometric construction and structure upon the Italian landscape. We see his fantastic imagination beginning to evolve, but we don't really get a chance to know the person. Next, we follow Escher to Spain and see him influenced by the complex symmetries in the Arabian mosaics in Grenada, transforming them into complex living structures that had meaning to him. And then, we observe that as his mathematical and artistic skills developed and merged, he began to explore a third dimension. Figures detached themselves from the 2-D plane and became solid (yet often impossible) geometric figures in space. With this growth, we begin to see Escher adding impossible elements to his work, constructing psychophysical contradictions. He begins to interact with mathematicians, translating their truths into his images. We see Escher making the infinite finite in his tessellations, and the impossible possible in numerous works, as his imaginary fantasy deepened. We see video clips of Escher creating some of his last works, including "snakes." We discover that Escher was a scientist, and a damn good one, whether he liked it or not.

But we never get a sense of Escher the person, and this is almost unforgivable. Sure, we get a glimpse of a muted artist-scientist-observer developing his theoretical visuo-geometric universe. And while we may form the impression of Escher as a detached theoretician at times, we learn nothing of the romantic tragedy and demeanor that permeated his life and style. Nuances of style and intense mood that are evident in his early work change and and disappear in his later work, without comment from the filmmaker. His marriage and family life blossoms and fades, with zero comment. War permeates Italy, Spain, and the world, taking his friends and colleagues and lifestyle with it... but there is zero focus on these profoundly important influences. So the video is hardly definitive. Rather, it has an outdated, incomplete and amateurish feel at times, with patches of irrelevance. My five star rating is for the value it provides as one piece of the puzzle. It is a "must see," but please do not stop here.

The Life and Works video, in contrast, provides a compelling psychological and historical portrait of Escher and his times. The filmmakers have done their homework and succeed in presenting Escher as a real person. Without a beautiful sweeping epic like this one, the drama of Escher's life might well be forgotten. (See my Amazon review of that video; buy the two videos together and receive two very different, complementary products).

The third video mentioned above, "Adventures in Perception" is relatively unknown, though it was highly regarded when it was released. Much of this brief video is nothing special - just the camera panning across various works. It does have some nice (in a pre-digital era way) animations of ascending and descending figures and wheel weevils. It includes a film clip of Escher working on his last print, "Serpents." A brief preview of the best animations from this video can be viewed for free at the Roland Films website.

To experience Escher's work, and to analyze Escher's work, are two great pleasures. I hope beyond hope that you will take a close look at Escher the artist, scientist, romantic, philosopher and historical figure. Should you discover resources of which I am unaware, please let me know."
M.C. Escher
fed | connecticut, USA | 05/12/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I am an art teacher and was looking for a good video on Escher. This was not it. I could hardly stay awake watching it; so I definately didn't show it to the students. There were a few pieces of interesting information but there were more photographs and animations of Escher's work with background elevator music. I was looking for an informative video on Escher's life; this was not it."