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Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan

Two stills from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 87 minutes.

THERE’S NO DENYING the power of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s splashy shock expressionism. Leviathan—or Leviathan, as it appears, white on black, in the movie’s titles—is not only named for the biblical sea monster; this account of commercial fishing in the North Atlantic is itself something of a prodigy. The forbidding Gothic typeface is part of the meaning, as if to ask, What hath God wrought?

Castaing-Taylor and Paravel come out of ethnographic film (he is codirector of Harvard’s Film Study Center and perhaps best known for the 2009 sheepherding documentary Sweetgrass, she an anthropologist who codirected, with J. P. Sniadecki, Foreign Parts, a 2010 study of car-repair shops in the junkyard district of Willets Point, Queens). Leviathan, which begins with an extended quote from the book of Job, is, however, closer to the handheld Sturm und Drang of Stan

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