The Painter Sam Francis

By Jeffrey Perkins

40 years in the making, this engaging documentary portrays the American Abstract Expressionist Sam Francis (1923-1994). Developing out of a long standing creative relationship between the artist and director Jeffrey Perkins, the documentary contains some of the most captivating sequences of an artist at work. The theme of flight is established early on in the film, through the artist’s dreams, his experience as a World War II pilot, and his development as a painter while recovering in a full body cast. The film is punctuated with intimate footage of the painter at different ages caught in a kind of trance-like dance over his enormous and intensely coloured canvasses.

The film is not only a broad professional portrait, but achieves a depth and sincerity through many revealing interviews. It has the only filmed interview with the artist, in addition to candid conversations with his family, and interviews with museum directors, Pontus Hulten & Walter Hopps, both of which are unique and unprecedented. Including anecdotes and insights from a number of well-known artists such as James Turrell, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Conner, Al Held, and in California, Ed Moses. Fascinating and poignant, the film builds a complex portrait of this unique personality whose enormous creative output not only resonated in Europe and America but was avidly collected in Japan.