Press and Media

Mubi Notebooks. NYFF 2014. First Projections

A select overview of the New York Film Festival's re-launched expanded cinema section, once Views from the Avant-Garde, now Projections.

by Daniel Kasman

A more direct exploration of two dimensions to three and back again was found in one of Projection’s major highlights, Anton Ginzburg’s Pan. Shot, like Razzle Dazzle, in 16mm—Projections and the Joseph L. Mankiewicz retrospective being just about the only places in this “film” festival where you can find film—Ginzburg’s short begins by observing an empty church’s bare, beautiful tilework in stark grayscale. A pan over a series of rectangular tiles in this instance practically achieves a slow-motion animated effect akin to Blanket Statement #2 , but Ginzburg is clearly after something else when his camera’s movements reveal spaces rather than just flatness, projected light rather than pure shades.

The rhyme and reason of the irregular camera movements and angles isn’t initially clear, being non-systematic and casually descriptive, each shot a singular unit, but small. Shots of further distance from the church’s surfaces reveal similar repeated shapely geometry in window coverings and flooring, projected and falling light. But then the rug is pulled out from under us. The form of the film is suddenly radically complicated and contexualized when during one particular camera movement the image quality degrades weirdly…and then the image starts to recede away from us into blackness, and by the slight jerk of this movement and the screen-like size of the falling image it becomes clear Ginzburg had been filming projected footage. Our viewpoint had been that of a color 16mm camera watching a black and white projection of the church footage.

The camera continues its movement away from the screen we were watching, arcs around the whirling 16mm projector, colors beginning to be revealed, and then slowly dollies into a video monitor. As the monitor fills the image just as the screen did previously our vision loses its ascetic palette of black, gray, and white and becomes awash in analog video swathes of variegating, wavy colors. We’ve lost all concrete geometry, all space, all documentation, and with it we’ve lost the record of the real world—one, notably, referring to another world itself, the spiritual one of religion—and entered into a new kind, a pure world, purely video and full of resplendent, warping color; but also one completely flat, with no room for us in it but a receptor for pulsing hues. In a single, stunning bravura movement we go from holy space to projected cinema space to the space of the cinema projector to the no-space-whatsoever of video. Re-watching the film on Vimeo seemed all the more fitting, absorbing the film-to-analog narrative into the digital realm.


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