A few months ago, while watching the lush and loving Tilda Swinton and Colin MacCabe documentary The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, I found myself thinking what an endless series of portraits this man has given rise to, and will keep giving rise to. The beauty of the film’s montage—much of it of Berger’s Alpine home—is a self-conscious tribute to the beauty Berger teaches us to see in the world, in art and outside it.
Berger’s decision in the early ’70s to spend what turned out to be five decades of his life in a small village in the French Alps is easy to misunderstand. He wasn’t seeking a refuge from the world, but the right kind of contact with the world. The film overflows with his charm and energy as a friend and neighbor; there’s none of the solitary artist pose. Peasants were a major reason he came; his son became one. And peasants became essential to his politics.