Landscape Suicide (1986, James Benning)

We’re in structural a-g territory here, a tennis player woking on his serve, over and over with precise editing. But then it’s twin true-crime re-enactments, actors playing murderers in interrogation.

A California teen girl is stabbed to death in 1984. The sound of typing throughout, cuts to black between her responses, ties to the novel Devil House, landscapes and artifacts. We have to listen to an entire song from Cats while watching a girl with perfect 80s hair talk on the phone. I don’t wanna have to think about the cost of music royalties when watching a movie, but putting a song from Thriller in your experimental documentary is okay?

Another girl is found dead at a Wisconsin farm in 1957. Static composition takes from around town, same as we just did in other town, listening to a radio preacher. Woman dancing alone to the worst version I’ve ever heard of “Tennessee Waltz.” This time no typing on the interview scenes, some ambient industrial sound.

It’s some pretty cool work by Benning, but I feel like I was tricked into watching a serial-killer movie, and I should’ve put on that four-hour George Harrison documentary instead. As far as my relative interest in musicians/murders go, I’ve skimmed the wiki on Ed Gein and though “oh no, that pretty much sucks” then moved on and never thought about him again. But I’ve considered George Harrison every day this year, and maybe that’s because I think I could pretty easily be a serial killer, but could never play guitar in a good group.

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