Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Film Capsule: James Benning's 11 x 14 (1977)


11 x 14 (1977)
Directed by James Benning

This early feature-length triumph solidified a methodology which Benning, an observational cinema pioneer and one of the pillars of the American avant-garde, has spent much of his subsequent four decades refining. By way of an alternating succession of static and tracking shots, interiors and exteriors, the film subtly accumulates an unshakable historical gravitas, a visual index of unassuming heartland locales both comforting and vaguely menacing in their familiarity. The visual iconography of the Midwest—churches, billboards, railways, cemeteries—coupled with Benning’s immersive use of both diegetic and non-diegetic sound results in something of a post-war cultural tableau, its ideological spirit exemplified in a pair of scenes—one domestic, one industrial—soundtracked by Bob Dylan’s “Black Diamond Bay.” In its fascination with the durational and physical elements of the environment and their relation to societal stasis and spiritual serenity, Benning’s film has bred descendants as obvious as Denis Côté and as unlikely as Richard Linklater. (Friday, July 18, 9pm at Anthology Film Archives, part of their series of films by Benning and Richard Linklater, in conjunction with the documentary Double Play) [The L]

No comments: