Saturday, March 31, 2012


Charles Gustafson's 1981 film Cuts depicts lives lived in a northwest saw mill producing cedar shingles.  Filmed using cinéma vérité strategies, the 38-minute piece is a raw look at the hard-working, hard-living "shingle weavers" as they mesh themselves with the rhythms of their saw blades, transforming massive logs of cedar into roofing product.  No one in the factory romanticizes the difficult and dangerous work, the best some can muster is a half-bitter, half-boastful pride about their ability to do it well.

Several of Gustafson's subjects talk about the sting of the blade as it hits flesh and many bear the scars of a deep cut; on average, this crowd has fewer fingers per hand than what you'll see in most films.  One shingle weaver confesses that the fear after being cut is almost more difficult than the injury itself.  Another man, on permanent disability, drinks heavily as he speaks of the loss of his hand.  The statement that sums it all up has gotta be, "it comes down to this: you've got cedar, you've got shingles, you've got fingers.  That blade just don't stop."

Cuts plays in a double feature with Ron Finne's Natural Timber Country at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Mon., April 2nd at 7pm.  Finne will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. 

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