Divided by season into nine sections, the documentary One Cut, One Life is as intuitive as its structure, as natural as the processes of dying and mourning that make up its core. The film is a collaboration between Ed Pincus, who revolutionized first-person nonfiction film and is now a commercial flower farmer living quietly with terminal illness in Vermont; and Lucia Small, a younger filmmaker reeling from the violent deaths of two close friends.
Despite their sorrow, the film’s driving narrative force is capricious, precarious feeling — what pulls us, and why. As Ed becomes sicker, the film grows more intimate. The camera lingers on postcard pictures of flowers, touched with motion by the wind. Ed and Lucia film one another and speak straight into the cameras about their hardships and desires, placing the act of filmmaking at the center of the documentary.
Real beauty emerges from the film’s visible seams and emotional fault lines — jump cuts, Lucia and Ed’s willingness to admit incapacity, their pride. In one stunning scene, Lucia sits at a kitchen table in weak sunlight, recording Jane, Ed’s wife. The intimacy with which Ed and Lucia work, create, and bicker — as well as the cultural trope of older male artist and younger female muse they appear to inhabit — is threatening to Jane.
“I don’t want to be afraid,” the older woman confesses, directly addressing the lens with her bright blue eyes. It’s a fault of feminism, of artistry, of generosity, for the older woman to envy one younger. And yet. How do we escape the myths into which we are born? We tell them, and show the hard work of telling.