on visuals Excerpts from 10 Works That I Think Are Cool and Why - just how I think about it. maybe a lot of this is obvious?
David Lynch's Mulholland Drive - What is wonderful to me about my three favorite David Lynch movies, Lost Highway, Mullholland Drive, and Inland Empire, are the moments where you realize you're not sure which plane of fiction you're on. For instance, a scene begins with an actor walking in to an audition, and slowly you start to think that you're not seeing an audition, but that what the actor is saying is actually her, and then a second later you're pulled back to the audition scene as he cuts to the director. In this Mulholland Drive scene we're sucked into the emotion of the singer, and the emotion that the two lead characters are reciprocating from the audience, until we're left to wonder whether all of the singer's emotion was fake? Does her performance transcend her? Was she sung to death?
Sally Mann – What I love about Sally Mann is that to me her work is a combination of mundane, family, could be anyone's summer family photographs with a really specific, detached from real-life visual aesthetic. So a photo of her kid with a bloody nose isn't just her reporting on what happened that day, and the glossy posed black and white look isn't just a retro looking fiction. For me the visual story that these photos tell hangs in between reality and fiction, so I'm always looking more and thinking more wondering if it will settle.
Chris Marker's Sans Soleil – The thing I love most about Sans Soleil is the scene of the woman in Guinea staring straight into the camera while the narrator talks about actors being trained to not look into the camera. That combination of documentary footage with fictional narration and no synchronous sound all motivated by a provocative philosophical viewpoint to me is kind of as good as it gets. I also love the more emotional moments such as this opening. It's a simple juxtaposition of two images, a simple narration, a simple idea (happiness) all put in time so perfectly to communicate how simple and elusive happiness is to this character.
Kanye West and Marco Brambilla's Power – What I think is awesome about this video is the decoration, the complexity of the composition, contrasted against the ultra-simple single slowly pulling back shot. I love that the medium of video can both be exciting and full of motion, elements moving through a frame, camera moving, edits changing our perspective, but also that it can be still and nearly photographic with hundreds of details sitting before us to examine almost (crucially, almost) out of time.
James Hampton's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly – Similar to Power, what I love is that there are a million details to see all in one 'frame'. The instantiation of a Washington DC man's personal religion, the richness that comes out of this work that's made of aluminum foil amazes me.
Cristina de Middel's Afronauts – A series that tells the story of the Zambian space program…sort of. To me, it feels like we're seeing her imagination of that, she's not really trying to tell us about it in any necessarily accurate way. Its more that this is her dream of a Zambian leader's dream, and those dreams are related to each other but not in any straightforward way. What I am not a fan of (in general) are based-on-a-true-stories. To my eyes at least, this is honest about just being in the same world as the Zambian space program, it's not trying to pass off as fact some made up story (eg, a movie about the founding of facebook).
Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet – Though I haven't explored this myself yet, I'm really excited about the idea of interpretation. The idea of choosing a well-known, historical source text and at times letting that fall away to focus just on the director's own aesthetic viewpoint. What I love about this Romeo and Juliet is that sometimes we're wrapped up in Shakespeare's characters and Shakespeare's world, while other times that's almost completely gone and we're in Baz Luhrmann's world of color, kinetic rate-change and bombast. Feeling those voices sometimes in concert sometimes working against each other is really exciting to me.
Mark Leckey's Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore – Similar to the work of Sally Mann, this re edit of old BBC footage feels to me like an alternative reality. The mismatch between video and audio, the tension between the constantly moving subjects just vamping with the long-held relatively static shots refocuses my attention and makes the mundane effervesce and float.
Hiroshi Sugimoto's Dioramas – What attracts me to the photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto is their smooth glossiness. To me, they look technically masterful, a precise, perfect, emotionally frigid, cool, collected, look at the bizarre not even trying to be persuasively staged fictional world of museum dioramas.
Terrence Malick's Tree of Life – What I love about the opening of this film is the rhythm and counterpoint between (1) main family images (2) cutaway images eg sunflower (3) voiceover (4) in scene audio and (5) edit points.