Shot on 16mm, this wondrous silent film study from avant-garde master Peter Hutton (At Sea) observes human movement across three distinct landscapes: Detroit, along the Hudson River Valley and in the Dallol Depression in Ethiopia.
As an antidote to the frenzied Festival pace, Wavelengths offers this all-silent programme — a diptych by Nathaniel Dorsky paired with the much-anticipated new film by Peter Hutton — to renew the senses and recalibrate the pulse. Two masters of silent 16mm filmmaking, with vastly different styles and formal languages, Dorsky and Hutton are both seminal figures in a tradition that has been a crucial contribution to the art of cinema — and one that faces increasing challenges as the physical medium on which that art is founded becomes ever more scarce.
Shot in San Francisco from autumn of last year through the winter solstice, Dorsky's Song evinces a cool, post-twilight mood as it captures the rhythm (supernal at 18fps) of the city, with a plethora of rainy reflections, shadows, and shimmery surprises in shop windows. Spring follows, with an abundant return of light and a retreat into nature so dense and rich that the film itself becomes a sort of wondrous garden, verdant, incandescent, and with startling bursts of breathtaking colour.
Years in the making, Three Landscapes is
Hutton's formidable follow-up to his magisterial
At Sea, which screened in Wavelengths
in 2007. The film has a determinedly simple
structure and premise — human movement across three distinct landscapes-but the
effect is transcendent, as we adjust to awesomely
varying scales and extended views
sculpted in time. Shot in Hutton's hometown
of Detroit, along the Hudson River
Valley, and in the Dallol Depression in
Ethiopia, Three Landscapes is both expansive
and curiously intimate as it observes
people at work: crossing an impossibly steep
bridge to the sky in compositions evocative
of Dziga Vertov, harvesting the land,
and toiling in the desert as camels stand in
wait. Composed of indelible impressions
filtered from a patient, generous vision, Three
Landscapes seeks to reinstate a humble yet
magnificent beauty to a demystified present.