It occurred to me as I sat watching highlights from the 2009 Directors Lounge, that what experimental film can do better than any other form is capture moments. Feature length narrative films work tirelessly to make their leading actors and leading actresses convincing as genuine characters. But once an actor or an actress reaches a certain height of celebrity, is it ever possible to separate them from their celebrity on screen? If Angelina Jolie picks apples in a film about an apple farm, can we ever not see her as Angelina Jolie? I think the answer is no.
Sometimes experimental films feel like one of those manic moments you have at 2 a.m. where you bolt out of bed and race to write something down or film something or call a collaborator and rattle off an idea. There’s a breathless sense of excitement to experimental films. There’s an obvious joy for the audience in seeing someones idea executed perfectly on screen.
Barbara Rosenthal – I Got The World In The Palm Of My Hand
Barbara Rosenthal’s short film, I Got The World In The Palm Of My Hand (1988) definitely has this energy to it. In the film Rosenthal reads a newspaper article about the psychic Joan Quigley, who more or less ran the Reagan administration during the last years of his presidency. The punchline to the article is a quote from Quigley herself arguing with the depiction of her in the media and announcing emphatically that she is a “serious political astrologer.” Rosenthal can be seen on screen with a globe cupped between her hands. The immediacy of the image and the rapid-fire way Rosenthal reads the article give the film a breathless quality. It’s as if Rosenthal wants to get the idea out as quickly as possible before the moment is gone and the impulse subsides.
Christroph Kopac’s Zucker (2005).
Another film that shares Rosenthal’s, “don’t let a good idea get away from you” quality is Katharina Hein and Christroph Kopac’s Zucker (2005). In this film, Kopac is the subject, the very drunk subject, and Hein narrates his actions as if he were an animal in a nature documentary. The action of the film concerns Kopac trying to crush a single sugar cube with a hammer. He attempts this over and over again, laughing harder each time it doesn’t work. During the screening, his drunken laughter was so infectious that most of the audience laughed along. It was somehow so sweet and comforting to be able to witness someone in that state of mind. The feeling the film communicated was so immediate and bursting with life, it was just a pleasure to be a part of it.
Too much thought goes into the marketing of films, the casting, and hyping the director. Not enough thought is given to the script, the idea behind the film, and freedom to experiment and discover hidden moments. If it wasn’t for the Director’s Lounge, we might not be able to identify an honest human emotion on screen.