Paul Cezanne said Claude Monet was only an “eye”, but God, what an eye”; watching Wim Wenders (“Pina”) and Juliano Salgado’s documentary “The Salt of the Earth”, focusing on the forty- year career of photographer Sebastiao Salgado (Juliano’s father), I was mesmerized by the overwhelming depth of sensitivity, profound respect in which Salgado imbues his subjects; portraits of nameless, shunned, outcasts; victims of genocide, religious intransigence; man’s ultimate inhumanity visited upon impotent, defenseless souls.
Mr. Salagdo, a Brazilian, trained as an economist, before succumbing to the allure of the photographic image; his pristine black and white technique concentrates, captures the core of the individual; he elevates the benign to an elite, worshipful plateau; entering the hotbeds of traumatic, forced migration, slaughtered innocents; seduced by the destitute, damned, he invades the swarming tide of refugees in Ethiopia; murdered populations in Rwanda and Yugoslavia; horrific oil-well conflagrations in Kuwait. Astounding, excruciating ugliness, and suffering become staggering objects of beauty and light, informed, blessed by Salgado’s celestial gift. At his nadir he views humans as “terrible animals”, but gloriously seizes, freezes the dignity of the few.
In conclusion “The Salt of the Earth” phoenix-like, rises from the doomed landscapes of appalling, man-made, apocalyptic, inexcusable conduct; Salgado, returns to his native land; reinvests, reinvents the arid, shriveled forest; pouring his wealth, unbridled passion, wisdom into the “salt of the earth”; terra firma, revived, flourishing once again as a habitat for vegetation, plants, animals; eternally hopeful, that mankind will shed its unworthy, tainted chrysalis, burst forth as purified, objective inhabitants of a cleansed planet.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!