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'Watermark' sure to leave impression

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By Colin Covert
Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Globe-spanning nonfiction film meets Imax-worthy visuals in “Watermark,” a stunning documentary about the way H2O shapes the human world and vice versa.

The film, a collaboration between large-format photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, is achingly gorgeous. There's something so hypnotic, so deeply pleasurable about the sight of flowing waves that must be encoded in our caveman DNA. The film is also worrisome. We depend on our water supply, yet mistreat it so casually; it's a bad codependent relationship on a planetary scale.

Baichwal and Burtynsky racked up the frequent-flier points for spectacular location work in India, China, Germany, China, Greenland, Mexico and more. There are jaw-dropping images of China's Xiluodu Dam, the equal of a half-dozen Hoovers. Its stark mechanized innards suggest a vast concrete Death Star. The camera savors the pointless beauty of the elaborately choreographed fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

We see desert delta tributaries dying of thirst, their feeder streams resembling branches of dead trees and floating coastal cities of boats and nets where Fujian fishing families harvest abalone. Water is poisoned by foul leather tanneries in Dhaka, enjoyed at a California pro-surfing competition and cherished at Northern British Columbia's pristine watershed.

At 92 minutes, the production is stately, unhurried yet crisply focused, never overstaying its welcome.

Colin Covert is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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