The latest installment in the filmmaker's series of journal-films combining iPhone footage and sounds and images from movies. A diary penned with cinema.
Journal (6.6.16 - 1.10.17)
feat. additional footage from Masha Tupitsyn and Isiah Medina
My journal-film series
(of which this is the third installment) came to be as a means of resolving the points of convergence and departure amongst the environments I occupy and those which I encounter in cinema. I like to view these films as a method of managing the images that take up my thoughts and memories into a new continuity, one in which the distinction between images seen on-screen and those personally experienced is no longer absolute.
In dissolving this partition, these films provide a vector for the animation conceptual concerns through cinema - montage fulfilling that which language can only formally describe and vice versa. The following essay outlines some of the concerns this film attempts to fulfill in an effort to instate a dialogue between theoretical and cinematic forms.
Note: Most of the original footage and audio that appears was shot on my phone, with the exception of a short segment occurring from 6:20 - 7:00 consisting mostly of footage shot by Masha Tupitsyn and a few 16mm shots taken by Isiah Medina towards the end of the film. It is this footage intermittently sequenced with screen recordings and sounds extracted from the movies I watched within the titular timespan that comprise this film.
SPACES COLLIDE IN FOLDING TIME
The past couple of months of my life have been comprised of alternating bursts of transit and stasis. Moving back to my childhood home and long trips to visit friends I have come to know through cinema. In constant consideration of the future from a vantage point spatially plotted in the past.
After a brief glimpse of a local projection room, the film moves on to phone footage of my sleepy childhood home. The rooms of my house are presented as if spatially connected to the images and sounds from movies that follow, as if these cinematic places were a continuation of the same space I myself physically occupy.
I build my home out of shots from movies:
Left to right: Silvestre (João César Monteiro, 1981); New York, New York (Martin Scorsese, 1977); Made in Hong Kong (Fruit Chan, 1997)
In this practice any sort of narrative logic becomes subordinate to that which links spaces in continuity. The correlation between a look and the image seen can serve as just as strong of a connective tissue between images as any relation which is imposed in an attempt to uphold narrative clarity. It is a question of overturning the hierarchy responsible for our ingrained conception that cuts between spaces gain fluidity only in serving some predetermined end - and instead allowing this end to flow out of these cuts themselves.
This conception of montage as such can also be realized in a negative sense, prompting more conflicting instrumentation. Rather than culminating into a sequence alluding to spatial continuance, distinct spaces varying in depth can be made to collide with each other in an elastic push and pull of sorts.
Given the disparities in quality between my own footage and shots taken from movies, this more violent relationship between images in montage almost seems to imbue each individual shot with a unique sense of mass. Shots as objects: stacking, tumbling, collapsing, colliding—the transference of momentum from one shot to the next, like marbles hitting each other (conservation of momentum).
Diagram: The conservation of momentum. In this case, each numbered square represents a shot (shots 1,2,3 make a sequence) standing in for the material objects physics makes use of in its description of the phenomenon.
Rethinking the relation between images in montage in this way is not only limited to bridging or intensifying the gaps between spaces. In this same vein, we can look to assign other properties of montage such as rhythm or color a more dominant role in determining the structure of a given sequence. I think rhythm is a commonly understood and well instated example of this, as the history of avant-garde cinema has done much to highlight the extra-narrative sense of continuity that resides within the kinetics of montage, one that allows for cinematic rhythms to imbue the seemingly discordant with a sense of harmony.
(6:20 - 7:00): FRAMERATE METRIC
This breakdown and reorganization of montage’s governing schemes in turn affords us an isolated view certain components of the cinematic apparatus that are not usually considered independently of their functions within the whole. With their structure no longer deemed necessarily fixed, a veil is lifted and the mechanics of motion pictures begin to invite investigation in themselves.
Lately, considering these inner workings has directed my thoughts towards the notion of speed in cinema, realizing cinema to be necessarily fast, but composed with a speed made imperceptible as its subsumed into the illusion of movement. Part of this film was propelled by a desire to develop a method of examining this in a way that blended the diaristic and technical.
Thinking of this inherent speed brings us to the irreducible point of the motion picture’s departure: the frame rate. Still images presented rapidly at 24 fps (or in the case of iPhone footage 29 fps) are able to generate apparent motion only insofar as each frame in a sequence maintains a certain degree of spatial consistency—breaking from the consistent repetition of a space is what we have come to define as a cut.
Given what we consider to be “fast” montage it would seem that our notion of speed is relative to the rapidity of changes in space that occur within a given sequence. But what if we were to theoretically subtract spatial oppositions from our conception of the cut? Would the slight changes occurring between the near-repeating frames of a singular space constitute micro-cuts in their own right?
The segment in which Masha Tupitsyn’s footage appears alongside my own and a small number of screen recordings (6:20 - 7:00) serves to penetrate and alter the system of repetition that makes the illusion of motion possible. This sequence peels apart this repetitive consistency by stretching out and re-condensing the uniformity that accounts for cinema’s illusory motion. This is actualized by imposing upon the sequence an altered, non-uniform pattern from which the cuts from shot to shot were then determined.
Journal (6.6.16 - 1.10.17) figurative Diagram
This pattern was developed by extracting a soundbite from The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) in which servants are seen smacking sticks against trees preceding the movie’s seminal hunting scene. One particular smacking sound was then taken, chopped up and repeated in order to produce the rolling hi-hat pattern you hear, with each cut between images coinciding directly with each repetition of this sound. The actual frame rates of multiple shots in this sequence are redetermined by this as well.
This stuttering clicking sound is analogous to the sounds emitted from a projector while running, which provides a sonic reminder of the mechanics of the motion image. In the case of the film projector, each tick occurs when the intermittent mechanism movies the film strip from frame to frame, 24 times a second—in other words, each time an aforementioned micro-cut occurs. The ticks repeating throughout the sequence in Journal however are far from uniform and do not occur 24 times a second. Instead they are deployed at an irregular rate, underscoring the comparative regularity with which the moving image is usually composed. In this process cuts as we usually conceive of them (cuts between spaces) are instantiated within each micro-cut.
In further detailing the interplay between spaces integral to this conflation of the cut and the micro-cut, it is worth returning to the point that these films are comprised of a multitude of different source materials. This sequence in particular is of special importance in that it contains not only my own footage and shots from existing films, but footage sent to me by a friend. My correspondences with Masha Tupitsyn have always been filled with the exchange of images, both those personally created and taken from films. It is this unique type of dialogue which is undeniably cinematic in character that I hoped to infuse directly into the the mechanics of the motion image—call and response unfolding from frame to frame, shutter to shutter.
(6:20 - 7:00) CONT.: SENSOR/DISPLAY METRIC
The inner workings of the cinematic apparatus invite quantitative investigation in more than the strictly temporal sense put forward above. This is especially apparent in considering the digital images that comprise most all of our modern experiences with cinema, specifically the process of translation undergone in these image’s capture and re-materialization onscreen. There is something akin to the metrical quality of frame rates in the way this is done by digital camera sensors and screens.
Digital camera sensors are comprised of a grid of light cavities capable of assessing the quantity of photons that have fallen into each respective square in the grid during exposure. They then translate this information into a more or less accurate representation of the image seen by assigning the correct color values to each pixel that comprises the seen image’s digital representation.
Top: Digital camera sensor. Above: Photons entering light cavities
This process is determined by a metric similar to that which presides over the uniformly measured repetition of frames in the sense that both are determined by a fixed network reducible to distinct but equal units (pixels and individual frames being the units respectively). The difference between the two resides in respective dimensions this metric is applied to, In the case of the former this is applied in two dimensional space (a grid of pixels on a flat plane) whereas in the case of the latter it is applied in time (a temporal sequence of frames).
Take for instance the installation view of Peter Kubelka’s flicker film Arnulf Rainer
compared with an image from Journal
placed beneath an enlarged grid standing in for the less visible grid of a digital display:
Top: Arnulf Rainer (Peter Kubelka, 1960). Above: Journal (6.6.16 - 1.10.17).
The Kubelka film presented as such transposes this temporal metric onto a two dimensional plane identical to that of a screen, what temporally plays as a flicker film becomes a two dimensional mosaic when viewed from another vantage point. in this arrangement the parallels between these two metrics becomes more easily deducible.
The sequence occurring from 6:20 - 7:00 contains periodic blocks of pure color inserted alternatingly throughout. These colors were taken from various paintings cropped into about 2 x 2 (or smaller) pixel squares. These blocks of color are single units in the mosaic that comprises a full digital image, but instead of being deployed across a plane in order make up a whole, they are deployed in time. The above-mentioned metrics are crossed and the two dimensional spatial unfolding of the image becomes temporal.
The Footpath (Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1917) and an enlarged pixel from the painting featured in Journal (6.6.16 - 1.10.17)
This planar conception of the image invokes a return to a conception of the frame as definite but malleable surface. Two dimensional yes, but within these boundaries it is still possible to stitch together multiple images in dynamic relation to one another. In silent cinema this was not uncommon and single frames often harbored a vignetted patchwork of images sutured together in simultaneous montage.
La roue (Abel Gance, 1923)
The final sequence of Journal is consistent with a return to this patchwork image, comprised of phone footage, clips from films, and a few 16mm shots of friends taken by Isiah Medina during a short trip to a Vancouver beach in-between shoots for Kurt Walker’s S01E03. It is a conglomeration of images woven together within the borders of a single frame, unifying in their concurrent proximity to one another. Lived memories as seen from both my point of view and others’ coalescing with cinematic ephemera, bound together in a form reminiscent of the images that have guided me to this point.
There is something unique in friendships unfolding with those whom I have come to know through their movies, building memories together from cinema as a starting point. It may be that here there is a narrativizing motion occurring, one that draws distant memories together into a linearity not unlike that which occurs during a sentimentalizing flashback. From here, it is impossible to see the future (fin), as the beginnings (prelude) are what are now presenting themselves to me. The distances traversed in a montage of friendship, scattered sentimentality providing some sort of through-line from space to space, shot to shot. A new continuity determined by connections and shared moments, unbound by distance and time.
In order of appearance
Sound (all audio from phone or cinema)
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) by way of screening in Mes Petites Amoureuses (1974), Anna Christie (1930), Song of Bernadette (1943), From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979), The Leopard Man (1943), The Story of Marie and Julien (2003), Love Streams (1984), Diary of a Country Priest (1951), Sicilia! (1999), These Encounters of Theirs (2006), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Eureka (2000), Gerry (2002), Ghosts of Mars (2001), 2046 (2004), Unbreakable (2000), Woman in the Dunes (1964), Déjà Vu (2006), Starman (1984), Duelle (1976), Minority Report (2002), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Rules of the Game (1939), Corte de Cabelo (1996)
The Accountant (2016)* (35mm print running filmed on iPhone), Orphans of the Storm (1921), City of Sadness (1989), The O.C. S01E07 (2003), The Haunted House (1908) , L’amour braque (1985), Arrowsmith (1931), Silvestre (1981), Made in Hong Kong (1997), New York, New York (1977), Basic Instinct (1992), Way Down East (Intertitle text) (1920), 2046 (2004), The Three Musketeers (2011), Diary of a Country Priest (1951), Le crime de Monsieur Lange (1936), Déjà Vu (2006), Duelle (subtitles) (1976), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), War Horse (2011), Night of the Demon (1957), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Maria no Oyuki (1935), Maine-Océan (1985), Moe No Suzaku (1997), Melvin and Howard (1980), The Wedding March (1928)