This film is based on a 'search' undertaken by the film-maker into the life and work of the painter Edward Hopper. It uses conversations with Gail Levin, Curator of the Hopper Collection at the Whitney Museum, New York, and author of an exhaustive biography of Hopper, an archive recording of an interview with Hopper and his wife Jo, and a close examination of Hopper's paintings. It visits the places of significance to him - his birthplace in Nyack, his studios at Cape Cod and in Washington Square. It constructs a biography of an artist whose career was, in many ways, an exemplary American success story, both the man and his art sustaining America's image of itself. The film tells of Hopper's visits to Paris, his first studio in New York, his work as a commercial illustrator and his growing concern with the representation of light, but concludes that the biographical approach is limited - the paintings are not direct images of places he knew, they are events in their own right.
Looking closely at the paintings and the sketches that Hopper made for them, the film demonstrates that they are constructed landscapes, conveying the idea, not the actuality, of a place - a cinema, a gas station, a hotel room. Similarly the figures are not individuals but types, caught in poses of inaction. Compared with the work of other American artists, like Norman Rockwell and Walker Evans, these scenes are full of contradictions, commenting on, not participating in, the dynamism of city life. The film-maker suggests that these paintings invoke a sense of narrative, like a movie still. The figures seem to be in a relationship to each other, but their story remains hidden and enigmatic, for there is no 'action' to supply this.
Director/Writer: Ron Peck Narration: Ron Peck: Gail Levin Original music: David Graham Ellis Arts Council of Great Britain