This would make a good double-feature with Dead Ringers, another 1980’s movie about twin doctors who fall for the same woman. In this one, Oliver and Oswald (twins, separated conjoined, I think Oliver is the blond one) are played by Eric and Brian Oswald (brothers, not twins) – zoologists studying animal behavior when their wives are killed in a car accident while being driven by Alba (Andréa Ferréol of La grande bouffe, The Last Metro, Street of No Return). They become increasingly obsessed with Alba, with each other, and with chaos and decay, freeing zoo animals and shooting time-lapse films of ever-larger dead ones.
These three are surrounded by some suspicious characters: a woman called Venus (Frances Barber of Secret Friends) and a mad surgeon named Van Meegeren, who amputated Alba’s leg after the car crash and now wants to amputate the other leg. She finally turns down the twins in favor of a new man who is also missing his legs – I think she dies at the end but not sure exactly why, and the brothers stage a suicide before the time-lapse camera to add their own decaying images to the collection.
It sounds like a bunch of weirdness from a plot description, but in practice it’s much weirder. Obsessed with Vermeer, decay, snails, symmetry, doubles, the alphabet, fakes and missing limbs – with the great pulsing Nyman music, and always more than one thing happening per shot, each splendidly composed frame full of motion.
Time-lapse landscape photography with different parts of the frame running at different rates… or moving in slow-motion, then skipping ahead… or fading one time into another… or flipping back and forth between shots from different times… or looping back on itself. Since it’s all about glitching the time-movement, it’s odd that he chose some shots with hardly any movement.
“A survey of the physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries of the United States-Mexico border. Follows the boundary and its immediate surrounding topography incrementally from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean,” says the official description. Rappmund also made a Nebraska movie called Vulgar Fractions, and studied under James Benning (obviously). Cinema Scope has an interview, and a visual map of all the shots in the film. “Repeating images reinforces the stability of the portrayal; it gives viewers a chance to catch small things in dense snapshots; it highlights movement as well as clearly accentuating the static; it breathes a rhythm and a three-dimensional life into pictures that’s difficult to capture with traditional filmmaking techniques alone.”
My still screenshots are can show off the lovely photography, but not the time/motion tricks that bring each scene to life. Atmospheric sound, presumably recorded at each camera site, featuring some birds who got my cockatiels all flustered. It plays like installation art, and my attention phased in and out… I should have been staring raptly at the photography but Katy wrote to ask if I could find any indie movie theaters in Shanghai (short answer: nope), so that took precedence for a while.
Where can I get one of these?
Mesmerising footage using slow-motion and time-lapse to make ordinary things (clouds, a night drive, video games, stock exchange) look wonderous.
Several generations have grown up looking at those images, but in ’78 they were extremely startling and it was like looking at the world for the first time.
Reggio: “It’s not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It’s because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.”
I knew what Reggio was going for with the images, but was pondering how, until the final title cards (defining the title as life in turmoil / disintegrating / out of balance), it’d be possible to see most of the movie as a positive celebration of technological progress. Reggio apparently meant it to be ambiguous in this way.
Set to a rightly celebrated Philip Glass score (reminded me at times of the latest Tortoise album), shot by Ron Fricke (Baraka, Chronos), played in competition in Berlin (with La Belle Captive and Pauline at the Beach). But most importantly, someone at IMDB has figured out how many frames of this film contain topless footage of Marilyn Chambers (four).
From the extras it looks like the movie could’ve become a hippie happening, with staged art events and an Allen Ginsberg spoken-word response soundtrack, before the concept was reworked. Reggio was inspired to filmmaking by Los Olvidados and there’s a good segment on his ACLU-sponsored anti-surveillance campaign.