I say all of this having not seen Jost’s other films, so I don’t mean to extrapolate into his oeuvre, and I would very much like to see the others, all the Vermeers in New York among them. And the flier and the woman introducing Jost and this film last night at the Siskel Center echoed the “American Goddard” someone at one time tagged this (*Chicago) filmmaker.
Working with Final Cut Pro, or in the case of this film, Premiere, and making videos and photos of place that are interested in textures, reflections, the impersonal- the process of this film was very apparent.. and there’s the pomo given yay, process is a foregrounded element, but then there’s knowing too much and having it occasionally be an obstruction/distraction. J was miffed sonically because, like Goddard, Jost uses a lot of cacophonous, drawn-out sonic gestures, but as J pointed out, the analog that G used stretches a lot more warmly than stretching digital sound- that was not recorded well to begin with (just the mic built into the dv camera).. jost’s result sounded quite a bit muddier and at times produced frequencies that offended J’s canine senses.
While we were cautioned by the evening’s introducer to “forget what we think we know about narrative,” which I was more than happy to do after the day’s rude awakening to all that I wish I could permanently forget about narrative (i.e. reading the strapping fiction), the film was so busy visually quoting 20th century French cinematic moments that it became not an homage but simply schizophrenia (at times the preeminence of this desire would derail pacing and rhythm entirely). I think this film came up short in finding what promised to be an intriguing identity in its own right, an identity not necessarily without some of the quoting. J said it would have been more interesting if the filmmaker had remixed the original source material, but then he wouldn’t be the man holding the camera, I said knowing one of J’s biggest goats is when the ego of the artist overwhelms the art. That’s an issue to return to for more..
Anyhow, I may see this film again when it’s in video and I can break up the 2+hour montage with a nacho break or two, because several of its visuals are truly striking and memorable: the way Jost angles the camera in reflective surfaces to capture the candid expressions of unsuspecting people, lights, traffic, advertising creates some beautiful compositions, like one of these at the beginning of the film from the vantage point of the cameraman riding the metro. The actors, there are only 2, and they’re not actors but just people being a slightly more intense version of natural, and with no script, improvising the few, mostly monologues, times they do speak on camera.. anyhow, one of my other favorite moments, well, several minutes, of the film is when these two, a man and woman in their early twenties, converse. It’s presented as a split screen and the camera is fixated on each of them, unwaveringly, and at angles that would have the viewer question whether these two are even talking to one another. In fact, each camera is rolling a separate take in which the conversations differ, though they are vague enough that, when played simultaneously, what develops is a porous boundary prone to some interesting intersections- another interesting instance of Jost’s knack for- I wouldn’t call it pastiche exactly, but- overlay. At times on the post-production side, he can’t help himself and creates superimpositions of images using the Premier toolbox, which seems slightly inconsistent with all of the stunning effects he’s able to produce organically, but is ultimately an extension of his explorations of the textures of DV itself, as many dropped-frame and similar effects in the program’s palette get taken for a spin along the way too.
Back to the actors and the fact that they’re not actors and have minimal to zero script and, it appears, minimal direction of any sort.. this gives the idea of character a refreshing candor and spontaneity, though in cases like this, the character is only as interesting as the real person and the woman of the pair amounted to the brooding, French equivalent of Meg Ryan whose most cultivated quality for the camera is her furrowed brow. –In another inconsistent moment where some kind of plot/artifice attempts to assert itself, a voiceover tells us they have broken up and the viewer is forced to endure a lengthy close-up of a sob so unconvincing it made my toes curl.- The guy, an acrobat in a traveling circus, is slightly more interesting and one gets the impression that the director must have been coaching him or kicking up his heels at the chance that this guy goes off on a tangent about the illusion of his work as a performer. Because, as we are all too explicitly and repeatedly reminded in voiceover, this film is an illusion, a dream. And J recognized this trope from some other French film. Oui Non employs this trope in recurring interludes that ask,”why this image? Why this one? Why not this woman’s story? (long pause) Because it is cinema.”