Thoughts On: Wavelength - Substance?


Wavelength - Substance?

Quick Thoughts: Wavelength

A long zoom shot of a room in which next to nothing happens.

Without much reason, and having seen this title about once or twice, I decided to watch this film. All I knew going into this movie was that it was an experimental film. And when you hear experimental film, you hope for the likes of Eraserhead, Meshes Of The Afternoon, Un Chien Andalou, Entr'acte, Waking Life or The Holy Mountain. Whilst these films are for those at quite a high level of pretentious and slightly obsessed cinephile, they have something of substance to them. They are weird, absurd and hard to grip, but they have elements to them that justify the need for an audience. That is to say that they're entertaining in a certain respect; they either stimulate the mind or senses. However, there is a whole other side to 'experimental film'. In this realm exists films like Eat, Empire--basically anything by Andy Warhol. Into this category slips nicely Michael Snow's, Wavelength. A huge round of applause for him. As I've already done it before, I won't delve into why films like this are so ridiculous. Instead, we'll just discuss the film for a short while and then leave you to maybe watch it and tell me what you think.

Ok, Snow talked about this film in Canyon Cinema Catalog, saying:

I wanted to make a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings, and aesthetic ideas. I was thinking of, planning for a time monument in which the beauty and sadness of equivalence would be celebrated, thinking of trying to make a definitive statement of pure film space and time, a balancing of "illusion" and "fact," all about seeing. The space starts at the camera's (spectator's) eye, is in the air, then is on the screen, then is within the screen (the mind). The film is a continuous zoom which takes 45 minutes to go from its widest field to its smallest and final field. It was shot with a fixed camera from one end of an 80 foot loft, shooting the other end, a row of windows and the street .... The room (and the zoom) are interrupted by four human events including a death. The sound on these occasions is sync sound, music and speech, occurring simultaneously with an electronic sound, a sine-wave .... It is a total glissando while the film is a crescendo and a dispersed spectrum which attempts to utilize the gifts of both prophecy and memory which only film and music have to offer.

This, in my opinion, is a great example of how to sell anything of any worth as anything else of any other worth. In such, this is statement is a non-sequitur, a description of a film not shot. Whilst Snow describes his plot well enough, all his intentions have not been represented very well by his 'art'. This all leaves this statement by Amos Vogel as something tantamount to a participation trophy:

Wavelength ranks among those films which force viewers, regardless of how they react, to carefully consider the essence of the medium and, just as unavoidably, reality.

Yes, a film like this could have anyone go on a rant about what movies should do and can do, but that doesn't mean much. It leaves the film as something equivalent to this (maybe don't click that). What Vogel's statement does is make poetry out of a rock. Whilst this poem may be captivating, interesting and other adjectives, the rock is still a rock. This is a merit of poetry--of all art; it can change our perspectives on the everyday. But, a film is art itself and so it should provide said poetry - which Wavelength certainly does not.

This is my core gripe with this kind of movie - its substance is entirely in someone else's hands. This takes the concept of a movie being down to your interpretation to an absurd level--one that renders cinema completely needless. For this, no matter what you say to me about this movie, no matter how you describe it, it is worthless. I sat through the 45 mins of nothing (not really paying attention, but I sat through it nonetheless) and so aren't going to change my mind. However, don't let my opinion sway you. What do you think? Am I just closed-minded and unenlightened? Or, do I just not get it? If you haven't seen the film, check it out here...

But, if you have, is there any worth to these kind of films? And if you disagree with me, you may want to check out some of Michael Snow's contemporary works online here.

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