17 October 2009

Location: Filmtheater ‘t Hoogt
Hall 1

The city is the place where the forces and fruits of modernity meet: capitalist enterprise, mechanised industrialisation, the movement of anonymous crowds and fast vehicles, kaleidoscopic shopping windows for all tastes and colours. “A city made for speed is made for success” wrote Le Corbusier in 1920. This influential architect saw in speed and urban planning the keys to better living conditions, but failed to take into account the fundamental ambiguities of modern urban living: the simultaneous feeling of agitation and stress, opportunism and nonchalance, order and chaos. The contradiction which appears to be the city’s essence. This is the central idea behind this screening pro- gramme, in which urban surroundings are observed, dissected and transformed into matrices of energy and rhythm, surfaces and patterns, colour and design.



Daybreak Express – D.A. Pennebaker
USA, 1958, 35mm, 6:00 min
“A short film for those with a short attention span”. A five-minute portrait of the soon- to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway in New York City set to Duke Ellington’s music. A simple composition of city images in 1950s, the directorial debut of D.A. Pennebaker – one of the fathers of American “direct cinema” – is an extraordinary experiment in using the camera in travelling motion. “I wanted to make a film about this filthy, noisy train and its packed-in passengers that would look beautiful, like the New York City paintings of John Sloan, and I wanted it to go with one of my Duke Ellington records, ‘Daybreak Express’.” (DAP)

Go! Go! Go! – Marie Menken
USA, 1964, 16mm, 12:00 min, mute
“Taken from a moving vehicle, for much of the footage. The rest uses stationary frame, stop-motion. In the harbor sequence, I had to wait for the right amount of activity, to show effectively the boats darting about; some sequences took over an hour to shoot, and last perhaps a minute on the screen. The “strength and health” sequence was shot at a body beautiful convention. Various parts of the city of New York, the busy man’s engrossment in his busy-ness, make up the major part of the film … a tour-de-force on man’s activities (…) My major film, showing the restlessness of human nature and what it is striving for, plus the ridiculousness of its desires”. (MM)

City Slivers – Gordon Matta-Clark
USA, 1976, 16mm, 14:00 min, mute
A formal investigation of New York’s urban architecture, it was planned to be projected on the exterior facade of a building. Employing mattes to segment the film frame into narrow vertical bands that readily accommodate the proportions of Manhattan’s high-rise skyline, Matta-Clark creates a dynamic city symphony. The visual slivers capture both the monumentality of the built environment and the hectic fragmented pace of urban life as traffic and pedestrians traverse intersections, workers enter and exit a revolving door, and diaristic texts appear running along the edges of the frame. “Time is fluid, again, as slivers of scenes overlap in rhapsodic simultaneity.” (Steve Jenkins)

Incorrect Intermittence – Yo Ota
Japan, 2000, 16mm, 6:00 min
“This film offers a metacinematic study of tempo and change and a figure of velocity. It consists of three interrelated parts or scenes that are unified by three different locations in Tokyo: a railway crossing, a shopping street, and a temple. In Ota’s experiment, editing is not the primary tool, yet it shows the emphasized rhythm of a montage film. To obtain this paradox of continuity, duration, change, and speed, Ota recorded each location at the interval of hours, and sometimes even days, by using different filters and by alternating the camera speed. The result mirrors aspects of both duration and speed while using real time as an editing tool. It represents an inquiry into the abstract space-time of cinema where Ota plays with the physical fact that time is a ‘function of movement in space’.” (Malin Wahlberg)

Terminus For You – Nicolas Rey
France, 1996, 16mm, 10:00 min
“Rey’s film uses a simple, classic trope of contemporary urban life: the moving walkway at the subway station becomes a dual symbol, an evocation of the human condition in the industrial world, as well as a metaphor for the workings of the most representative of the era’s art forms: the cinema. Like the film loop, the walkway circles endlessly, yet its visible portion, shadowing the human walk, offers an illusion of linear progression, transporting human bodies from A to B with the smooth lateral movement of a traveling shot, and the pre-determined direction and calculated time of an endlessly repeated scenario. (…) Urban life’s mechanical rhythms continue to provide an artificial sense of continuity, direction and purpose where fragmentation and senselessness reign.” (Martine Beugnet)

Public Domain – Jim Jennings
USA, 2008, 16mm, 8:00 min, mute
In a career that spans over three decades, Jim Jennings’ lyrical sensibility has thoroughly captured the environs of New York from its bridges, trellises, and elevated subway lines to the closely observed nuances of fellow New Yorkers. “The film’s title was a response to the debate in New York over the City’s plan to require licensing and insurance from filmmakers to film on the street, in the public realm. Fortunately, the City backed down. In its whirling color, this film expresses my never-ending fascination with the street.” (JJ)

Hold – Dryden Goodwin
United Kingdom, 1996, video, 5:00 min
People observed in the street are a frequent subject in Dryden Goodwin’s films, drawings and installations. His video Hold considers the nature of memory, exploring the tension between our desire to hold onto experiences against the inevitability of the passing of time. A recollection of all the people seen through a day, Hold exploits the fact that film is made up of separate frames; it features a new person on practically every frame, or every eighteenth of a second. Although occasionally two or three people are held longer, using consecutive frames to jump back and forth between them, the sound and the mechanism of the film are relentless, no resolution is reached, we continue to move forward.

Interstices – Michel Pavlou
Greece/Norway, 2009, video, 3:00 min
A series of scenes shot in the Paris metro, edited to the rhythm of the trains’ automatic doors. The kaleidoscopic effect of viewing through the windows of trains as they pass each other determines the geometry of the image. A composition of parallel and divergent vertical and horizontal movements: those of the camera but also of the trains and the scrolling publicity panels. Everyday traffic and urban rush are recurring themes in the work of Michel Pavlou, concerned with the investigation of film’s primary dimension: time.

Rush Hour, Morning and Evening, Cheapside – Mark Lewis
Canada, 2005, 35mm > Hd video, 4:00 min, mute
Shadows of pedestrians during morning and evening rush hour at a major urban intersec tion. Scenes of people scurrying to and fro, captured from a very different perspective: Only their shadows appear to collide randomly. Everyone is hurrying to work. And sub- sequently to their homes. Shot in London’s financial district, Rush Hour, Morning and Evening, Cheapside is an attempt by Canadian filmmaker-artist Mark Lewis to capture the urban fabric.


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