Sixty one-minute shots of Milwaukee (Wisconsin). No camera movement. Frontal staging of tiny (often funny or made funny) events. The same locations (and same actors ?) 27 years later, changed. The same sound too, unchanged. Read More »
In late May of 2011 I returned to Milwaukee to make a third version. This one was shot with a Sony HD camera. For this second re-make I decided to go back to the original idea, that is, to simply document the architecture in Milwaukee’s industrial valley. I searched for buildings that looked like the ones from 1977. I found 18 of them. A few of them are also in the original 1977 film, and the others look as if they could have been. I then decided to shoot each of these building for five minutes. I felt a longer duration was necessary to study their true presence. During filming a few fortuitous events occurred that reminded me of the constructed minimal narratives of the original film, so I decided to add one constructed narrative (myself as the actor) to this latest film, ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE 2012. (James Benning) Read More »
Criterion: David Hudson
February 18, 2018 | Berlinale | Critic’s Rating: +++ (jury.critic.de)
None of that was on my mind as I luxuriated in the vibrant grain. Those, like me, who’ve been familiar only with Benning’s later work may be surprised by how entertaining and, at times, even funny 11 x 14 is. . . . Dialogue is rare, muffled, and all but indecipherable, but that doesn’t mean 11 x 14 isn’t a film to listen to as well as admire for its framing and composition. Read More »
The 16mm test roll for James Benning’s feature-length film TEN SKIES. 74.78 is part of Mike Plante’s Lunchfilm series of commissioned shorts (made for the cost of a lunch between Plante and filmmaker James Benning). Read More »
As soon as Los was completed I added Sogobi to make it a trilogy, the urban and rural portraits needed the Californian wilderness to put them in perspective. Following the same structure Sogobi would look and listen to that wilderness. The first shot of Sogobi would relate to the last shot of Los, and the last shot of Sogobi would return to the first shot of El Valley Centro, revealing its mystery. The entire trilogy would become an interrelated puzzle.
James Benning, December 2001
Coming after the spectacular El Valley Centro and Los, Sogobi is a colossal disappointment. James Benning is the most methodical, careful and mathematically precise of film-makers, so it’s baffling that he should abandon the logical progression established in the first two parts of his California trilogy. Centro examined California’s farming heartland. Los explored the greater LA county, and skirted around the edge of the city itself. Surely the next step should have been to tackle Los Angeles in all its garish, terrible splendour, providing a filmic counterpart to Mike Davis’ books of dystopian polemicism, ‘Ecology of Fear’ and ‘City of Quartz.’ Read More »
James Benning’s latest is a three hour+ shot featuring light, clouds and the much anticipated return of a BNSF train. Only info about this on the net is that a recent intended screening was cancelled. Read More »
Between July, 2007 and June, 2008, veteran independent film-maker,James Benning built replicas of two iconic American Cabins in a remote part of the High Sierras- Henry David Thoreau’s hut from Walden Pond and the one-room plywood shack in rural Montana from which Theodore John Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’) conducted his 16-year bombing campaign via the U.S. mail. The juxtaposition of these two simple structures invokes and implicates deeply conflicted and enduring foundational American myths concerning the scope and meaning of personal liberty, civic responsibility and the rule of law; individual conscience, democracy and civil disobedience; the transcendental value of nature, wilderness and the god-given right to exploit natural resources; American exceptionalism, environmental conservationism and faith in technological progress; the imperative to make oneself (anew), to ’succeed’ and, if necessary, to secede.
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