An astronomer and a cryptographer uncover a series of ancient tunnels, unwittingly unleashing a deadly Sphinx. In order to trap the Sphinx back in its tomb and stop impending destruction, ... See full summary »
Based solely on a tea leaf reading, superstitious and introspective Kay believes she and Louis are destined to fall in love with each other, he who she is able to convince of the same ... See full summary »
As Laura Mulvey's lasting legacy has been her theorization of a feminist avant-garde that eschews visual pleasure, it's hardly surprising that her famous 1977 experiment Riddles of the Sphinx is a bit difficult to digest. I certainly had a hard time watching it. But even though the film consistently tried my attention and nerves, I cannot deny that it's a wholly original work. And the more I think about it, the more I respect it, and the more--this is a bit crazy--the more I think I might like to watch it again.
The most immediately intriguing stylistic component is the slow, rotating cinematography of the film's fourth chapter. By placing a camera in an environment and confining it to a mechanical 360 degree rotation, Mulvey and Wollen offer a deliberate point of view that maintains visual interest without conforming to any traditional understanding of the filmic "gaze." This technique is most effectively employed in a scene that takes place in moving traffic, to a distinctly Children of Menesque effect; its a compelling demonstration of the spectatorial pleasure to be derived from cinematic skill as opposed to voyeurism and scopophilia.
Elsewhere, Mulvey and Wollen continue to push the boundaries of how we engage with cinema--I can say truthfully that I was far more invested in seeing two water drops reach the end of a maze than I would have been in characters chasing MacGuffins. I can't promise that you'll enjoy Riddles of the Sphinx in any traditional sense, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any filmmakers or artists interested in exploring new forms of expression. -TK 9/23/10
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