Red Film (2019 Sara Cwynar)
“Technology disciplines its audience.” Dense and completely wonderful, fast overlapping voiceover with new age music accompanies saturated visuals of consumer conveyor belts, makeup tests and dance poses with a lot of face touching.
From the wikis: “Cwynar’s work presents a marriage of old and new forms that are intended to challenge the way that people encounter visual and material culture in everyday life.”
Compared to its deliberately messy predecessors, Red Film feels like the work of an artist who has clarified her obsessions. For all its frenetic surface activity, Red Film is a coherent commentary on the vicious cycle of capitalism, which, with the aid of modern media, perpetrates our physical insecurities, creating impossibly high standards of beauty that only feed into people’s desire to consume more in the inevitably disappointing quest to reach such standards.
Rose Gold (2017 Sara Cwynar)
Focused on the iPhone instead of makeup – tech/marketing/desire – and just as great, though it’s maybe redundant to watch these two so close together. The only thing they have in common with Barneys New York is that she always seems to have ink on her hand, and we get to see her camera mechanism (I did get to try out one of those Barneys phone gimbals and decided I don’t need one). Closing credits list all the references – not direct quotes, unless Heidegger and Wittgenstein wrote about the iPhone.
Rose Gold is as much a jumble of ideas and impulses as the very society it aims to critique. This is no doubt a conscious strategy, undertaken on the assumption that linear argument is inadequate to the task of understanding our neoliberal global structure. Nevertheless, this is a film that announces its intellectual intentions but adds to the cacophony instead of parsing meaning.
At Hand (2005 Andrew Busti)
The first time I watched a Cwynar short the program opened with a Busti short, so it seems fair to keep exploring their work together. This seems like photographed scenes, slowed down, and either Decasiaed or rotoed, all texture replaced with that of liquid metal, stained glass, beer bubbles, a pebble beach. I thought for a moment that it may be the abuse of an edge-detection filter, but it looks more organic than that, a low boiling rumble on the soundtrack.
26 Pulse Wrought (Film for Rewinds) Vol I (2014 Andrew Busti)
Somebody’s been watching Hollis Frampton? Flickering shots of different objects and colors and landscapes (including the camera lens in a mirror) stuttering to a morse code rhythm. Like a video essay where the voiceover and visuals are saying different things, only we don’t know what the spoken message is saying unless we load the movie into Adobe Premiere and decode its frames using the key from the opening titles – not tonight. Annoying to listen to but once I got used to the flicker the visual choices were interesting.
26 Pulse Wrought (Films For Rewinds) Vol III (2016 Andrew Busti)
Black and white flicker film – I can’t tell if it’s in morse code or not. “These words here are meaningless,” etc, large text on screen with matching voiceover, very annoying to watch, though very short, and I was thinking if you take the word “here” from this film and the camera reflection from Vol. I you could create the other Busti short I’ve seen. According to his vimeo (which doesn’t have Vol. II) this was produced on 16mm.
Night Swells (2015 Zachary Epcar)
Photographic study of potted plants on the sidewalk outside the mall, abrupt sound editing of street noise and a record about talking to plants.
Return To Forms (2016 Zachary Epcar)
Photographic study of waterfalls, and feet, and hand models – I prefer the waterfalls. Gliding camera tour of an apartment, and surveillance scan of the building from outside. The sound editing just as abrupt, but to cleverly humorous effect. An excellent final image brings together all the previous pieces: a gloved hand fondling a plant growing through a hole blasted through an iPad. Guess I was right to play these the same night as the Cwynar films.
Life After Love (2018 Zachary Epcar)
The title only comes in at the end, as an in-car hypnotherapy session. The rest seems like a languorous car ad set in a parking lot, made by people who don’t realize cars are supposed to move.
Epcar’s camera moves around this space as though it were on rollers, controlled like an automatic car window. The filmmaker sees with windshield eyes. His name is an anagram for A CA CAR ZEPHYR.
New Fancy Foils (2013 Jodie Mack)
Stills of paper samples, different orientation, with advertising text, then faster and faster. At 12 minutes there’s time for a slow build, and the rapid fancy foil flicker was worth the wait – though for ten seconds there it got so fast that my mpeg copy broke down. Silent, I played the Attacca Quartet album with the pretty bird cover art.
Let Your Light Shine (2013 Jodie Mack)
A different sort of thing – animated white line segments surrounded by rainbow prisms, in increasingly rapid succession. The crap-atari sound effects give the impression that the white figures are computer graphics, but the line texture says not. From the Cinema Scope cover story, it sounds like the original film was just the white hand-drawn figures and theatrical audiences wore prismatic glasses to create the rainbows.
Something Between Us (2015 Jodie Mack)
A real audio journey in these three Mack shorts from no sound to bad sound to great sound that carries the picture. Taking gramma’s jewelry out to the yard to play, repetitive bird and frog noises get looped and warped into music. Closer look at the jewelry, and the pond, the RGB prism artifacts from the previous film returning with a vengeance here, and taking over as the second half’s soundtrack keeps adding new layers of bells.
Something Between Us plays with the cheap shine of costume jewelry … Mack intercuts these close-ups with shots of a hazy lakeside forest, its early dawn refracted by the misty fog to produce rainbow prisms and flares. In time, Mack is alternating between this “natural” light and its highly artificial facsimile, the trinkets swinging to their own chiming electronic theme song. A game show bell dings mid-film, as though we’ve found the right answer when the organic is largely vanquished in favor of Mack’s pendular, sun-dappled Claire’s Boutique of the mind.