A couple of weekends past, as part of the Melbourne Festival, we watched Dean & Britta perform '13 Most Beautiful - Songs for Andy Warhols Screen Tests'. You might have already seen it. 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests with, for the most part, songs composed to accompany them. At around 3 to 4 minutes in length, each screen test was given a musical shape. What was really incredible however, was just how intense a viewing experience it was. It was moving and immersive and verging on the transcendent. On the way home, I kept thinking about how the opportunity to gaze into a face for that length of time is reserved only for lovers and for the cinema. Someone told me many years ago - and I've never been able to remember who it was or find the source of their quote - that David Cronenberg said that his perfect film would be 90 minutes just following a person's face in close up. I don't know if that's true but I've never liked Cronenberg's films and I wanted to like them a whole lot more after hearing that. Other filmmakers who I do love seem to make precisely that kind of film. I'm thinking of the Dardennes Brothers 'Rosetta' or Hou Hsiao Hsien's 'Millenium Mambo' or Reygadas 'Battle in Heaven' or Zoncka's 'Little Thief' or Bresson's 'Mouchette'. The opportunity to linger on a face as it moves from emotion to emotion or from place to place is that rare privilege. If anything, I think my desire for this kind of film makes it difficult for me when it comes to writing. I seem almost happier to see a character in stasis than to propel them somewhere. I'm curious what will be revealed on the face in those moments of stillness. Just don't tell my script editor."Show us their faces. Tell us what they said"
Don DeLillo, 'The Names'
You can watch the trailer also at the pretty damned nice distributor site for Plexifilm and buy the DVD there. I am curious how the DVD translates. There was something very balanced and right about the projected faces flickering away high on the theatre wall and the haphazard snaking of amp leads and microphone cords on the stage below as the band performed.
We also watched this film/performance only a week before the opening of Dirtsong, which was a vast performance by the Black Arm Band with a background projection of a feature-ish film (80 mins or so of extracted goodness) assembled from fragments that T and I shot and edited for the performance. More on Dirtsong in time, but there was no doubt that seeing '13 Most Beautiful' allowed us, in the midst of a month of daily 18hr edit sessions to settle back, be inspired by this immersive kind of film portraiture and rely on simplicity and clarity and stillness.