Friday, February 10, 2012

Andrea Callard TALKING LANDSCAPE: Early Media Work, 1974-1984 at Maysles Cinema

TrustMovies often prefers to know little or nothing about a film before he views it -- just sit, then watch and listen. Sometimes, though, it's good to have a bit of background. That's probably the case with the work of Andrea Callard, shown at right, whom I knew literally nothing of, prior to sitting and viewing TALKING LANDSCAPE: Early Media Work, 1974-1984. On the basis of what I saw in this 73-minute compilation of Ms Callard's film work, I'd call her -- gheesh! I hate using this phrase 'cause it seems to turn a lot of film-goers off -- an artist and experimental filmmaker.
But there: I said it. Now deal with it.

What we get in this diverse, alternately fast-moving and draggy program (at times I wanted to call out, "Mommy -- is it almost over?") runs the gamut from seemingly irony-free (and therefore quite ironic) humor in the initial section to a short dissertation with visuals on New York's most popular tree, the Ailanthus, complete with a history of the tree, where it comes from (China's involved, as well its silkworms and silk). This section is simply terrific. From there we see a bit of ladder climbing, watch some very odd round objects perched precariously on a window ledge which are later used as billiard balls, try stepping into a pair of rubber go-aheads, hear a song about shoes and clover, and get a rather bizarre visual treatise on plants and florescent lighting.

Because the earliest of these works date back nearly forty years, that grey/blond hair we see at top was brunette at the time (see the photo above) and Andrea herself was an attractive young woman who seems prone to try just about anything -- if only to discover what might come of it.

The enjoyment of all this is a matter of personal taste -- and to mine, some stuff works a lot better than others. Toward the end Callard gives us two very different short programs, each, I think, worth the entire, larger program. In one of these she assembles a slide show of photos (see above, and the two below) taken in various countries, each slide captioned rather oddly. After we see this once, the artist repeats this slide show a second time, and whether or not it is slightly speeded up, I am not sure, but this time, I realized that those "captions" actually work together to make a statement of sorts. But then Callard shows us this a third time, which for me was once too many.

The final piece is the deal-maker, however: the history of and then a simple tour of (via some excellent photos taken at the time) of the now-legendary exhibition called The Time Square Show, organized by Callard, in which a raft of artists, from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Keith Haringdisplayed their work in what had recently been a multi-floor massage parlor. This is indeed something to see, and I should think lovers of modern art will go ape-shit at the unique opportunity the filmmaker provides. As Callard tells us quietly at the finale, this is not everything from that exhibition, "But we're working on it."

Talking Landscape opens this Monday, February 13, for a week's run at the Maysles Cinema, as part of the cinema's bi-monthly series known as Documentary in Bloom. Click here to learn more about the Maysles Cinema and here to purchase tickets for this interesting "one-woman film show."

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