Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters at National Gallery of Art Sunday, Jan. 5

Gregory Crewdson isn’t just a photographer; he’s also a conductor of sorts. Creating his large-format, moody tableaux requires 60 assistants and a budget approaching that of an independent film. The resulting images—a mix of haunted, twilight locations in western Massachusetts and interior scenes constructed painstakingly on sound stages—feature ordinary people frozen in time and burdened by psychological complexity. Crewdson claims to derive some of his ideas from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Cindy Sherman, but the loneliness that pervades his scenes most strongly echoes Edward Hopper’s paintings. Over the course of a decade, filmmaker Ben Shapiro tailed Crewdson as he produced 50 images for a project titled “Beneath the Roses.” The most revealing moments of Shapiro’s documentary, Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, happen when Crewdson explains the beauty he sees in seemingly ordinary small-town locations. At those times, he isn’t a big-budget, high-flying superstar with ample opportunity to tweak his images in post-production, but rather an artist with a gift for sensing something tangible that no one else can. The film shows Jan. 4 at 3:30 p.m. and today at 4:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. nga.gov.

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