Sunday, September 10, 2006

Paul Sharits

I finally made it to the Rice/Richter/Sharits program which is a programming staple of the Anthology Film Archive's 'Essential Cinema' canon. It starts with Ron Rice's Chumlum, goes through three Hans Richter shorts, and ends up with Sharits' N:O:T:H:I:N:G and T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G. (Strangely enough it was a packed house! But which filmmaker on the bill is "the new Tarantino"?) I was wondering what the continuity is that ties these films together, and I've tentatively decided that the strongest common bond is that these are films where the viewer's eye is barely directed toward a given part of a frame. The eye can wander to an edge, pick & choose what action or segment to look at, and (for the most part) with these films there is no "wrong" or "minor" or "peripheral" choice in so doing.

These multicolor staccato strobe films of Sharits' are really something powerful. One audience member walked out in the middle of N:O:T:H:I:N:G, muttering, "This is too boring." (She got some chuckles from the crowd.) Maybe it is, but who buys a ticket for a program like this one and just decides ten minutes into the first Sharits on the bill that it's "too boring"? I'm willing to suggest that the experience was off-putting and intense, more so than it was "boring." There's nothing to grasp onto with a film like this. You have no choice but to sit and stare at the screen for the duration. (You can close your eyes, but the flicker effect comes through anyway.) 'Sublime cinema,' no pointing elsewhere, no fictions, no illusions. Sharits is cinema on the very edge. One has to meet the works "out there" at the limit. Not everyone is inclined to do it. (And, after all, flicker films can be outright vicious on people with epilepsy.) I actually loved this films, I think, although "love" is such a poor word to describe one's reaction and relationship to such things ...

These are scattered, initial notes--more on this tomorrow, possibly ...

6 comments:

Matthew said...

"The eye can wander to an edge, pick & choose what action or segment to look at, and (for the most part) with these films there is no 'wrong' or 'minor' or 'peripheral' choice in so doing."

Sounds familiar. I'm liking it.

Anonymous said...

FYI, it was a packed house because someone at a local university is teaching the films.

jmac said...

"Love" is actually a perfect word to describe your perception. :) I'm glad that so many people were at the screening!

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