Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) (2023)

Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) (2023)

The visionaries behind some of the most iconic album artworks in history share their creative process in this visually stunning albeit tediously told documentary

6.6

Movie

United Kingdom
English
Documentary, Music
2023
ANTON CORBIJN
David Gilmour, Glen Matlock, Graham Gouldman
100 min

TLDR

It’s a coffee table movie—all pictures and anecdotes that are fun and informative to be sure, but strung together in the most straightforward and predictable way possible.

What it's about

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, co-founders of the British design group Hipgnosis, take us through the collaboration that led to countless celebrated album covers, from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.

The take

Hipgnosis’s body of work is so rich, brilliant, and recognizable, that it’s hard not to at least sit in awe as they flash by you in this documentary. The accompanying stories behind their creation, sometimes told by Thorgerson and Powell, other times by their musician clients like Jimmy Page and Paul McCartney, are also pleasant and informative enough to paint, in whole, an interesting picture. But apart from the covers themselves, Squaring the Circle doesn’t have much else going for it. The co-founders’ history is too brief and plain to render drama, and their upbringing too upper-class and male to be relatable. A more broad, ambitious goal would’ve been to parallel the history of these artworks with the history of rock music itself, but this niche documentary seems uninterested in explaining itself to outsiders and newcomers. That said, it still serves as a precious account for those familiar with Hipgnosis’ pieces. 

What stands out

The documentary is at its best when it takes pains to explain the technical “hows” of each artwork, instead of simply recalling celebrity anecdotes. Funnily enough, it’s Noel Gallagher—notably not a Hipgnosis client and present here as the voice of the newer, influenced generation—who has the best soundbite out of all the interviewed guests. To paraphrase, he says Hipgnosis represented a time when music and albums were pure art, whereas now they’re just commodities. It’s painfully true, but also one that could’ve been explored in depth by the filmmakers. 

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