Journal of Film and Video
Response to Phil Solomon’s WALKING DISTANCE
By Albright, Deron
“Imagining one of those rusted medieval film cans having survived centuries, a long lost Biograph/Star, a Griffith Melies co-production, a two-reeler left to us from, say, the Bronze Age, a time when images were smelted and boiled rather than merely taken, and they poured down like silver, not to be fixed and washed, mind you, but free to reform and coagulate into unstable, temporary molds, mere holding patterns of faces, places, and things, shape-shifting according to whim, need, the uncanny or the inevitable. . . WALKING DISTANCE is a simple Golden Book tale of horizontals and verticals, a cinema of ether and ore. . . “
The second “movement” (each of which is titled after an episode of The Twilight Zone) of an elegiac farewell to the twentieth century, Phil Solomon’s WALKING DISTANCE is a roiling, churning, yet ultimately meditative and hopeful piece on the tension of transience and eternity in human nature. The work teems with life, showing an obsessive attention to craft and, perhaps more importantly, the evidence of great care in its creation. As such, it affords any number of rich possibilities for access, discussion, and criticism: Michael Zryd calls it, “[A] blindingly rich . . . work which recalls an Anselm Kiefer painting in motion,” 1 while Kenneth Eisenstein provides a thoughtful reading based on what he calls “the facts” of the film – “the photographic images that are huried under the skin.”2 For me, it is Solomon’s last characterization of the film, “a cinema of ether and ore,” which provides the best road of access – a recognition of the paradoxical nature of the material and ethereal construction of images, seen through the lens of Kierkegaard’s early treatise on the nature of human existence.
Writing in 1843, Kierkegaard describes in Either/Or two ways of life: the aesthetic and the ethical. In the former mode, man’s focus is on the temporal pleasures of the intellect and senses – an existence rooted in the literal stuff oi everyday life. Kierkegaard argued that the aesthete, when faced with the possibility of the infinite and confronted with the temporal limits of his existence, ultimately falls into despair. However, he suggested that the force of that despair might lead the aesthete toward the existence of the ethicist and connection to the infinite. In a way, then, the material existence of the aesthete became almost a precondition for development of the ethical way of life, rooted in the morality of the eternal.3
To my eye, WALKING DISTANCE encapsulates this point of crisis in Kierkegaard’s structure, the slash, if you will, between Either and Or. So much of the film is simply and magnificently the churning of texture and tide, slutting shapes, morphing shadows. While (as Eisenstein demonstrates) it is entirely possible to decode the images within the ooze, it is the ooze itself that rules the day. The distinction between (pro-filmic) image and (processed/printed) treatment of the image is effectively collapsed into a breathtaking sensory experience – i.e., the aesthetic. The experience is reinforced in the droning soundtrack, inducing an almost trance-like state through sounds that seem to emerge from somewhere between Gregorian Chant and the ocean at midnight.
383MB | 23 min 19 s | 720×540 | mkv