Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Double Tide

In recent editions of Sight and Sound Jonathan Romney has written about the trend for Slow Cinema - 'a cinema that downplays event in favour of mood, evocativeness and an intensified sense of temporality'.  Nick James, in his editorial for the April 2010 issue, sounds a cautionary note.  'Watching a film like the Berlin Golden Bear-winner Honey - a beautifully crafted work that, for me, suffers from dwelling too much on the visual and aural qualities of its landscape and milieu - there are times, as you watch someone trudge up yet another woodland path, when you feel an implicit threat: admit you're bored and you're a philistine.  Such films are passive-aggressive in that they demand great swathes of our previous time to achieve quite fleeting and slender aesthetic and political effects...'  Nevertheless, later in this same issue, Jonathan Romney, reporting from the Berlin Film Festival, praises two 'minimalist explorations of landscape', Alexej Popogrebski's How I Ended This Summer and Sharon Lockhart's Double Tide.

Popogrebski's film, made over three months on location at an Arctic weather station is not Slow Cinema - it is more of an 'adventure in outward-bound film-making in the Flaherty-Herzog tradition'.  But Double Tide is as slow as it gets, consisting as it does of two fifty-minute takes from a fixed camera, framing a view of misty mudflats on the Maine coast.  Romney writes that this 'is as close to a picture of nothing as a representational film can get: by comparison, Kiarostami's Five is pure Jerry Bruckheimer.' During the course of the film a single figure is seen gathering clams while the mist thickens and clears.  This arduous, repetitive work made Romney uncomfortable, although a reviewer for LA Weekly writes: 'it’s awful, backbreaking work, but through the lens of Sharon Lockhart’s camera, it’s also magnificent.' This puts me in mind of those old landscape paintings with picturesque labourers, and makes me wonder whether it would be as easy to overlook their exertions if one were compelled to watch them patiently working for a hundred minutes...

Still from Sharon Lockhart's Double Tide


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind seeing both of these films.

Mrs Plinius

Plinius said...

OK! I'll look into it.