For one day only, Roman Chalupnik visited the workshop of June Leaf, widow of photographer Robert Frank. Yet, in just under eight minutes, he has managed to bring the very essence of her art to the screen. And it is precisely with a carefully rendered black and white that the director’s camera focuses on the artist’s hands intent on creating new sculptures, on her tools and small objects that she had previously created.
In a small corner of the world…
Art and its saving power. And again, art seen as a mission, as the sole life goal. The artist June Leaf – widow of the famous photographer Robert Frank – knows something about this. This sprightly lady, now in her nineties, still continues to produce art with her own hands, making a series of paintings and sculptures mainly from wire and recycled materials. Documenting the creative processes that give life to such works – as well as the memories of June Leaf herself – was therefore the task of director Roman Chalupnik with his June Leaf – The Life with others, which was supposed to be part of the Diagonale 2020 and which, following the cancellation of the festival, was included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.
For one day only, then, Roman Chalupnik visited June Leaf’s workshop. Yet in just under eight minutes, he managed to bring the very essence of her art to the screen. And it is precisely with a carefully rendered black and white that the director’s camera focuses on the artist’s hands intent on creating new sculptures, on her tools and on the small objects she has previously created. At the same time, in voice over, June Leaf talks about her job and what led her to choose such an unusual profession over the years.
“Even today, at almost 90 years old, I am the little girl who realised that she wanted to be an artist. For me, even trying to draw one of my mother’s shoes was something sacred,” said June, recalling her own childhood. A childhood in which, alongside an idyllic and loving relationship with her mother, an intimate secret was hidden for years: the desire to one day become an artist.
Roman Chalupnik, then, with his June Leaf – The life with others, has given us a short and intimate documentary, a brief glimpse of a reality that would almost seem to represent a world apart. A world belonging to the present, but which sees its roots in a distant past. A past that, even today, is more alive and pulsating than ever (hence, precisely, the skilful choice of black and white). At the same time, June Leaf’s still young and fresh voice completes the portrait of a woman, of an artist who, despite her age, still shows the naive and passionate soul of a child and who has tried throughout her life to maintain the clear and attentive gaze typical of children themselves, so perspicacious in observing adult behaviour and so ready to learn new things.
There is no place in June Leaf – The Life with others – for unnecessary captions or redundant directorial virtuosity. Yet, thanks also to an essential but meaningful music score, everything almost takes on the connotations of a fairytale. A fairytale that takes place in a small workshop within a noisy city and which – in a context that is almost isolated from the rest of the world – conveys an extraordinary feeling of calm and peace and fills our eyes with beauty.
Original title: June Leaf – The Life with others
Directed by: Roman Chalupnik
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 8’
Screenplay: Roman Chalupnik
Cinematography: Roman Chalupnik
Produced by: Roman Chalupnik