Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Realist (2013)

WHO: Scott Stark. I wrote about another of his films, Speechless, earlier this week. 

WHAT:  Michael Sicinski has already written an excellent, thought-provoking analysis of Stark's new experimental mannequin melodrama The Realist on the eve of its world premiere. Let me extract an excerpt:
through Stark’s manipulations, the mannequins command our attention. They shimmy, seduce; they seem to march in unison, as if preparing to mobilize in some sort of capitalist-couture guerrilla faction; they gaze as us like kitsch statuary.
A very good description. Sicinski also points out that Stark's juxtapositions "disguise the anteriority between and among shots within a single scene". Indeed. Previewing a not-quite-finalized version of The Realist on DVD the other day, it was remarkable to me how this work retains a sense of created "cinematic time" i.e. an illusory feeling of narrative progression as scenes and sections move forward, against all reasonable odds. Stark employs a method of transforming stereoscopic imagery into two dimensions by jumping back and forth between what each eye would individually see, a method I jokingly referred to as the "Ken Jacobs effect" before I realized other filmmakers such as Stark have employed it as well (then again, perhaps the joke holds, as anyone who has seen the right 1950s National Film Board of Canada documentaries knows Ken Burns didn't invent panning and zooming photographs). Though most films are not edited in-camera or even shot in sequence, most do not bear signs that they at least theoretically couldn't be. The Realist literally makes a cut with every frame. Thanks to its generous use of cross-fading techniques, one could say it makes a minimum of one cut per frame in fact. But the rapid alternation between two or more perspectives somehow assimilates in the brain much like a single shot might.

I would also like to mention that the sense of narrative and "melodrama" in The Realist is greatly aided by Stark's musical selection, a work by composer Daniel Goode, a former student of Henry Cowell's. His propulsive, post-minimalist piece from 1988 Tunnel-Funnel sets a very agreeable rhythm for Stark's editing. I'd love to see a small ensemble (the piece was written for a group of thirteen flutes, trombones, string players plus a pianist and a percussionist) take on a live performance to accompany Stark's images someday.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens 5:30 this afternoon at the Victoria Theatre.

WHAT: This screening of The Realist is the centerpiece of a program of Stark's recent work presented by the Crossroads Film Festival which ends today. Because it's a piece with an entirely musical soundtrack, it ought to completely sidestep the sound clarity problems that can trouble screenings of dialogue-dependent films and videos at the Victoria Theatre. I always wish the theatre might channel some of its rentals from film festivals (in addition to Crossroads, the SF Underground Short Film Festival, which happens next weekend, and Frameline are among the more established festivals regularly using the venue) into making improvements to the sound system. Luckily few Crossroads films and performances involve much dialogue at all.

I finally really appreciated why Cinematheque likes to use the space last night during the projector performance piece Tejido Conectivo
presented by the Spanish duo Crater. What began as a diverting single-, dual- and triple-projected presentation of birth, backyard & travel home movies running against an electronic musique concrète soundtrack opened out into a glorious display of illusionism, seemingly the entirety of the human condition spilling off the screen and onto the cavernous white walls via no fewer than seven 16mm and super-8 projectors. I expect The Realist to have no less epic an impact in that space.  

HOW: Made and screened via digital video.

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