The trailer for Camano Island artist Jack Gunter’s art film — “The Quest for the Lost Paintings of Siberia” — is set to the song “Do it Again” by Steely Dan.
The music and lyrics fit.
“You go back, Jack, do it again…”
In the fall of 2013, Gunter went back, again, to Akademgorodok, Russia, the scientific center of Siberia, to retrieve 17 of his paintings.
The artwork was reportedly stacked in a dusty museum basement, where 23 years before Gunter was forced to abandon them because of lost paperwork and a customs dispute.
The paintings were shown in the Soviet Union in 1989, part of a touring exhibit about art with social commentary. Gunter is good at social commentary. These particular paintings poked fun at an idea for a commercial airlines runway in north Snohomish County.
Gunter returned to Russia the following year to pick up the paintings but found he could not take them home.
He let it go until about five years ago when he began raising money to go back again. This time Gunter took with him local filmmakers Jesse Collver and Ken Rowe.
Collver put together the documentary, which includes animation by Gunter, narration by Ed Bednarczyk (as the voice of one of Gunter’s ubiquitous flying pigs), a haunting original score by Patrick Donicht, video clips by Rowe and Collver’s beautiful, close-up shots of Gunter making a painting.
Gunter cracking eggs for his tempera paint marks the start of the film, and his brush strokes are interspersed throughout the documentary. The finished painting will take your breath away.
Many of the animated and video scenes are hilarious, as one might expect from Gunter, but some of the drinking scenes drag a bit. Be prepared to see Gunter’s naked backside. Notice that he is carrying a Schack Art Center bag. Count the number of Marshawn Lynch Seahawks jerseys he gives away.
The best scenes are with the Russian people: Gunter sharing meals with his friend Valeryan Ivanchenko, being interviewed by a morning TV show host, haggling with customs officials. And Gunter visiting a native shaman in the countryside.
Throughout, the viewer keeps wondering what the chances are that Gunter can get all of his paintings home.
“Now you swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gamblin’ man.
Then you find you’re back in Vegas with a handle in your hand.
Your black cards can make you money so you hide them when you’re able.
In the land of milk and honey you must put them on the table.
You go back, Jack, do it again,
Wheels turnin’ ‘round and ‘round.
You go back, Jack, do it again.”
It took Collver and Gunter nearly two years to finally release the film.
It was worth the wait.
“The Quest for the Lost Paintings of Siberia”
Rating: PG-13, for naked bottom, language
Showing: 7 p.m. April 21, Historic Everett Theatre, Everett; April 29, Lincoln Theatre, Mount Vernon; May 28, Stanwood Cinema.