Filmed on November 21 and 22, 2018 in Valencia, California. A gibbous and full moon rising. Read More »
A true masterpiece of 70s cinema, more remarkable today than ever before. A conceptual bicentennial film dealing with spatial and temporal relationships between two travelers, their car, and the geographic, political, and social changes from New York to Los Angeles. The space within each frame is at the same time continuous and elliptical. Read More »
I’ve been brooding a lot lately about the way in which many of the best movies around have been ravaged by “narrative correctness.” This is the notion fostered by producers, distributors, and critics — often collaborating as script doctors and always deeply invested in hackwork — that there are “correct” and “incorrect” ways of telling stories in movies. And woe to the filmmaker who steps out of line. Much as “political correctness” can point to a displaced political impotence — a desire to control language and representation that sets in after one despairs of changing the political conditions of power — “narrative correctness” has more to do with what supposedly makes a movie commercial than with what makes it interesting, artful, or innovative. Invariably narrative correctness means identifying with the people who pay for the pictures rather than with the people who make them. Read More »
In “Landscape Suicide” Benning continues his examination of Americana through the stories of two murderers. Ed Gein was a Wisconsin farmer and multiple murderer who taxidermied his victims in the 1950s. Bernadette Prott was a California teenager who stabbed a friend to death over an insult in 1984. Benning’s distanced approach to such grisly material is as far removed as possible from sensationalism, however. Although the acts of murder are both bizarre and violent, Benning dwells on them only minimally, emphasizing instead the details of psychological motivation, which in both cases seem frighteningly mundane. Benning has created a script which is a masterpiece of understated colloquial writing, and the actors he employs to re-enact confessional testimony and incidents recounted in trial transcripts perform with a flatly convincing lack of affect reminiscent of Gary Gilmore. Read More »
A document of one of the most famous 66 miles of railroad track in the world including the Tehachapi Loop.
After his 2007 RR, filmmaker James Benning set his camera up by the railroad again. This time, instead of observing various types of trains, he watches trains passing the 66-mile railroad from Bakersfield to Mojave. The endless train tracks look as if the trains were transporting us to somewhere. Watching the tracks, we gaze at the moment of trains passing through the track. We also find the heritage from the past, cargo trains, reminding us of scenes from classic western movies that today’s cinema almost forgot. From Bakersfield to Mojave forms a delightful contrast with On Paradise Road, which was exclusively filmed inside the house during the shutdown. Showing us the wild and vast nature of the United States, it delivers us some sense of freedom in this moment where nobody is really allowed to travel freely around the world. Read More »
Benning’s 18-minute study of moonfall in the morning sky– A close cousin to his film “two moons”. A lovely rendition of ‘Moon River’ accompanies the footage, filmed July 24th, 2019. Read More »
Filmed at Benning’s home in Val Verde during the first month of the pandemic, the film is a portrait of that time. Read More »