This doc about the British writer, artist and public intellectual John Berger, who for many decades lived as an ex-pat in rural France, was completed shortly before his death in January 2017 at the age of 90. It’s co-produced by the actor Tilda Swinton, and she’s one of four directors who each contribute a chapter to the film, which is roughly organised around the four seasons.
Life and death get in the way of the best-laid plans though, and Berger, who’s best known for his 1970s book and TV series on art, ‘Ways of Seeing’, is absent from one of the chapters after the death of his wife. At another point, the focus moves with Berger from rural Quincy to Paris. This sense of improvisation makes the film feel alive, if not entirely whole, and some chapters work better than others.
That said, Berger is such a compelling personality that it’s easy to enjoy simple chats between him and Swinton at his kitchen table, or small moments such as when he takes one of Swinton’s children for a ride on his motorbike. Some prior interest in Berger would help, but even newcomers should find this an infectious portrait of independent thought and living.