DANIEL WALBER is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. He holds a MA in cinema studies from New York University. His writing on film and opera has appeared at Nonfics, The Film Experience, Dok.Revue and Indiewire.
Leslie Thornton’s Peggy and Fred in Hell (19832013) begins with a close-up shot of vocal folds, whipping back and forth as if in the wind. It’s an announcement, not only of the tone of the film to follow, but of one of the themes that will occupy the entire Flaherty NYC Fall 2015 season.
What does it mean to gather in the cinema in the context of a death? Most retrospectives in this city come on the heels of something positive, like a new film or the celebration of a centennial. The Derek Jarman series being held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this month is different.
Béla Balázs, the pioneering Hungarian film theorist, met the arrival of synchronized sound with a fair amount of skepticism. Heard dialogue, he argued, would halt the artistic progress of the image. He perhaps didn’t see the irony in the fact he was also a librettist, having collaborated with Béla Bartók on Bluebeard’s Castle.
Simply put, Bovines is an hour of cows. Much of the production consisted of Gras and his camera alone among the stoic beasts, who seem to have barely even noticed their intrusion.