Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ernie Gehr 1

Ernie Gehr: Essex Street Market
DocPoint Vanishing Point: Ernie Gehr, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Jan 2013
In the presence of Ernie Gehr, introduced by Sami van Ingen.
Prints from Canyon Cinema and Ernie Gehr.

Catalog intro by Sami van Ingen: "Ernie Gehr’s (born in 1941) productions are mathematically precise: his works transmit their idea and context without artistic mannerisms or excess trickery. Gehr’s films survey their environment with the toolkit of documentation, and yet they manage to foreground the processes of capturing, perspective and interpretation. His interpretations of generic office halls and anonymous street corners are new ways of noticing and recording one’s surroundings. Central to the works are unusual framing, rhythms and perspectives."

"In Serene Velocity (1970) Gehr twists a mundane office hall into an ecstatically convulsing horizon by changing the focal length between different frames. The piece has been chosen to the U.S. Congress Library’s National Film Registry as a part of the most important cultural heritage of the country. In Shift (1974) traffic perceived from above transforms into a pinball game-like mania through a rhythmic montage."

Serene Velocity (US 1970, 23 min, 16 mm)
Shift (US 1974, 9 min, 16 mm)
Essex Street Market (US 2004, 29 min, DV video bw, silent)
Signal - Germany on the Air (US 1985, 35 min, 16 mm)
96 minutes in total

Four cinematic essays, all different.

Serene Velocity: Ernie Gehr's camera penetrates a generic corridor in a steady back and forth rhythm like an obstinate phallus. The experience of the space changes constantly. A surprising study in perspective and depth. Minimalistic like Wavelength, yet quite different. A space odyssey.

Shift: shifting gears in a crossing, the camera abstracting views of the street and the cars, the framing is consistently off or upside down.

Essex Street Market: shot in the 1970s, Ernie Gehr edited this film 30 years later when the market had changed from an everyman's market to an upscale one. The basis is straight documentary observation of fish, vegetable, clothes, and shoes being sold. Lively scenes, humoristic scenes, still lives. There are shots of classic black and white beauty, linking them to early cinema views of the 1800s.

Signal - Germany on the Air: street scenes from West Berlin, a study of the spirit of the city. I happened to live there at the time, no wonder it looks familiar. The soundtrack is non-diegetic, a collage of radio channel surfing with German and American speech and music. A film about duration, with Antonioniesque affinities at times.

The prints were good. The colour looked right in the three colour films. The black and white was crisp.

No comments: