Filmmaker Tony Hiles observes his friend Michael Smither, the painter, composer – and, in this film, singer too – as he rethinks work he deems unsuccessful and finds consolation and inspiration in poetry.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
Tony Hiles delivers the ninth episode in his documentary series 2009–2019 Michael Smither: The Next Ten Years – and NZIFF’s lunchtime serial – catching up once more with his friend, the artist and composer at the easel and piano.
Smither continues to work on the large portraits of self and friends which we first saw in 2016. Abandoning the unsettling implications of jihadist propaganda he had entertained at the time, he reframes the imposing faces with collar-lines, engaging as ever in his narration of the visual ideas at play.
Failure to sell the painting that was the subject of Light Through the Trees triggers a more radical act of recovery. In a case study for future students of pentimento, what originated as a study of winter light through the boughs of an ancient pohutukawa is reworked into an expression of high summer.
Poetry is the subject of the film’s third chapter. The artist exhibits and discusses the recent restoration of ‘The Sick Rose’, his 1970s acrylic panels rendering the William Blake poem; then sings his own delicate setting of a poem by his late boon companion, Peter Jacobson. Loss and recuperation are the recurrent themes here, with the film ending on a celebratory montage of work accomplished.