By Steven Strauss August 21st, 2013
In trying to come up with a quick explanation to a truly puzzled, "…what the fuck is this?!" in reference to some "video art" (youtube…"i-be area" - Ryan Trecartin, pick one) I came up with the semi-vague, semi art-speak bullshit answer, "It's so good because it lacks context, while somehow bringing into reference all the ways you contextualize and process movies and YouTube videos and text messages and all the media of our daily lives." And a lot of fast editing never goes astray.
I watched the first 50 or so minutes of "Upstream Color" a few weeks ago and it was pretty awesome. I kept thinking (a lot) while watching it "…this is very aggressively edited. And sustained. Seriously…opening montage editing tempo throughout…No, actually "trailer" editing tempo sustained for 90 minutes. Rapid fire, keep the imagery and the story moving. Fuck you:) in the best possible way Shane Carruth for actually sticking through it in the editing process and doing what maybe every filmmaker thinks they are going to do with a project when first visualizing it and then again once its' shot and the editing begins. Pigs and injections and so many hard-drive dumps of footage and b-roll and locations and "different day" wardrobe changes. Time consuming shit, but simple enough and cost effective enough to shoot with some persistence and cooperation. And it really works when you put it all together just right. ie - this movie.
But, it gets tiring to watch. I did not finish. I can't say I will ever watch it straight through from start to finish, but I will probably watch clips for some time to come. And I can say that I still think about the tone and imagery and all of the achievement in the above since I have seen those 50 minutes…and reference and contrast the finer points with other things I watch now. That sort of mind lingering power is rare in a movie.
So, I was thinking...Is any given well constructed 10 minute increment of a film better than the sum of it's 90minute consecutive whole? I love Ryan Trecartin's work, in short Youtube presentations. The answer to the question with his work for me is Yes. An entire world can be created by filmmakers and actors and set designers. The audience is presented with this world yet also excluded from it by the screen and by the overall make-believe nature of film. If a movie is good or strikes a particular chord we want to periodically daydream ourselves into that made-up world. Make decisions in it, be leads, have sex with leads. Maybe an answer is in that encapsulated reality. Maybe you'll come back to it someday and find it. Mediocre jokes fade, shock and awe fade, and I think Shakespeare wrote every story line used in everything ever made subsequent to 1616.
Generally a filmmaker wants to tell a story and video artist want to create a moment in which a perspective shift could allow one to question or re-think a concept of everyday occurrence or jerk you out of the vague narrative of life. Real life often lacks musically scored triumphs, and tragedies. Drama in real life tends to be more sudden and jarring.
We find repeatedly that a slow-motion…. anything…. can stir unexpected emotional epiphanies. There is more media being produced on a daily basis than ever before. Who's making it? Who's watching it? What inspired the creator? What un-made media will be inspired by what already made media? Are all good questions in the ever-growing pile of uploads and shares we have to choose from in our quest for entertainment. Some like it fast, some like it slow. What will be remembered decades or centuries from now? Surely just an quick clip increment of something, soley as a reference point to something else.