The film’s sound component, composed by Tristan Shepherd, gives the footage a gentle anxiety. In the beginning, we hear what one might identify as insect chirping, creaks, and buzzing noises; soon, (according to my ears) a flapping sound enters, as if very small rapidly moving wings are speeding though none are in view. A gurgling noise, a twisting noise, then sounds that are more reminiscent of instruments begin to vibrate and pulse. Three quarters of the way into the piece, we reach a climax of beats and hums, one of which recalls a wooden board, or wooden toys cluttering together. All of the descriptions above rely on images from the natural world, yet Shepherd composed this piece mostly using turntables and a Serge Modular Synthesizer. The oddity of this dated instrument makes it a fitting accomplice to Schultz-Figueroa’s 16 mm footage.
Allison Somers’ works often remove viewers from the New York City landscape. While shooting scenes in Wonder Valley, CA for Garden, the artist captured the knick-knack remains of a backyard surrounding an abandoned homestead. We see blurry black and white portraits of cacti, rocks, shrubs, and wrinkly desert mountains in the distance. We also see “The End” cryptically scribbled in cement, a weather vane, and pebbles left in an old frying pan. The focus of each portrait is off, and the frames all shake a bit, recalling the sub-standard hand of home-made movies. Somers’ footage may be inexact but it glows and creates another sensation that cannot be expressed by the hyper-real technologies. Her footage mimics the sensation of memories.
In another post reflecting on A Reasonable Man, Mike Everleth, pinpoints a judge’s comparison of the event with The French Connection, and the familiarity of car chase scenes in Hollywood action movies. From the earliest heist films to the more recent technological wonders like Inception, filmmakers seem to be increasing the standards of good chasing with new forms of brutality. Though we’ve certainly grown comfortable watching these scenes, we are not accustomed to seeing the raw footage present in Frye’s film. Even the famous car chases delivered through local news media, carry obvious forms of hype. A Reasonable Man differs in its bareness. With few alterations in the footage and dialogue, Frye gives us room to think of the event without an action-movie background or a clear hero. Smartly, he also lays the burden of deciding who the title describes upon the audience.
Erik Moskowitz and Amanda Trager’s “seductive cinematography and richly layered” film reads as a forlorn music video starring a cast of J. Alfred Prufrocks who experiment with ideas of progress. In the plot, a mom and dad move into a commune with their young son, where they find that they cannot thrive in this progressive, utopian setting. Some characters cannot be tolerated. Personal space seems violated. The family’s journey ends with a brawl involving the mother and a man representative of the community. All lines are also dubbed in the same slow voice along with a stream of sentimental guitar music. The slow, hypnotic opera strengthens the sense of absurdity in every sentence, as it drowns out the severity of each overly intellectualized conversation. For example, “there is division between the doctrine of separation of powers and democracy,” is just one snippet of dialogue from the last episode. Imagine how un-serious that phrase becomes when it is sung by a lifeless, electronic voice against soppy rock music.
In one of the more widely circulating images from Cloud Cuckoo Land, Robert Janitz and the actor playing his young son lie awake wearing pajamas. They do not face one another. Both seem deep in thought. It’s clear that the 2 actors are both standing straight up, but the image behind them displays an illustration of a large bed seen from above, implying that the characters are lying down. Or pretending to lie down. The scene expresses a true tension and an inability to feel comfort even in what ought to be the most comfortable of places–one’s own bedroom.
Using similar scenes in a stream of dream-like sequences guided by hypnotic music, Moskowitz and Trager describe a hypocrisy in community pride, what David Finkelstein provocatively writes of as “part of something terribly wrong with the entire utopian experiment of America.” By this, he points toward the tendency to idealize one’s own beliefs while looking down on the ideals established by outside communities. As interpreted from Cloud Cuckoo Land, everyone seems to represent and reject some sort of niche. For a nation as large and as varied as the United States, that sort of metaphor could assist us in understanding the complex social issues we face as a country.
On a night cooler than most June evenings, the playful brutality of Genevieve White’s performance work manifested as she invited the audience to burst cold water balloons hanging across her torso. Politely, White approached nearby viewers as if to pass out raffle tickets. People were free to choose any balloon to burst. The splashing water combined with the artist’s upfront gestures created a sort of awakening among festival attendees who had been sitting through two and a half hours of onscreen works by this point of the night. No longer were viewers absorbed in documents but in live movements, which seemed enhanced by the previous lengthy hours watching projected images . In each other, the group formed part of a moving spectacle, our attention shifting from White and her heavy costume, to the water at our feet, and to each balloon popper.