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Casting a Glance
dir. James Benning / USA 2007 / 80’
subtitles: Polish and English
Movies on Art International Competition

Film description

As for the ultra-minimalist James Benning, this is virtually an action film. We have here short shots, close-ups and changing perspectives. Casting a Glance is about the Spiral Jetty, the most famous sculpture by Roberta Smithson, a coil-shaped jetty raised in 1970 in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. At first glance the film seems just a record of Benning's many years of observing the jetty in different weather conditions and time of day. Sometimes, the structure sinks underwater, we can hear wind, water and birds, occasionally even a trace of humans: a roaring plane, shots, hunters hailing, a song on the radio. 37 years recorded on 16-mm tape in one, unstitched narrative? Not really. Actually, the film was made during 18 months between 2005 and 2007 and the director misleads his viewers and listeners, proving how strongly our perception is determined by what we see. The dates in the film describe when the sound was recorded and not the image. Maybe some of the sounds were even recorded elsewhere, how can we know the sound of a spiral jetty? When the door between image and sound is set ajar, we realise that a seemingly simple record hides an ironic artistic strategy.

Ewa Szabłowska

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