Tuesday, October 13, 2009

(Nostalgia) for Hollis Frampton

Reading Manohla Dargis's piece on Ken Jacobs in the NYT made me think of something... barely related.

is an experimental film made by Hollis Frampton in New York City in 1971. Frampton films several of his old photographs as they burn to cinders on a hot-plate, and his friend, Canadian filmmaker Michael Snow, narrates Frampton's recollections.

On the simplest level, (nostalgia) poses a problem-solving game.

Deliberately misaligning chunks of narration with the photographs they describe, Frampton has us listen and look more earnestly. And, as the photographs slowly singe and flame, we look against the clock, re-matching what the filmmaker actually has to say about each goofy, beautiful work from his bohemian youth on the LES before the artifact is incinerated. The pleasure really lies, of course, in the disjunctions themselves. Resting on the burner is a photograph shot through a Wall Street bank window -- a glowing chandelier and beautifully molded ceiling -- and the narration intones, "this photograph of two toilets was made in February of 1964."

Good narrative tools like these -- mystery, comedy, urgency -- don't fit easily into non-narrative art. It's hard not to admire how artfully (nostalgia) achieves them.

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