Michelle Citron manipulates home movie footage in DAUGHTER-RITE (1980) to get viewers to understand the narrator's inability to move past memories that continually loop in her mind. These looping images (memories), sometimes moving in reverse, but always in a sort of copped-up fashion prompts the viewer to contemplate the difficultly one encounters whilst remembering memories from one's childhood in an exact, photographic reminiscence. Eeriness dominates Citron's images despite the happy grins and playfulness of the children -- it is assumed, alongside the narration, that under the happiness there is much confusion and pain.
Andre Bazin argues in his essay, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," that photography frees the image from factors such as time and space, a theory challenged and refuted by Citron's approach in DAUGHTER-RITE. There is a moment in Citron's film when the figures walk down a sidewalk then are re-wound when they reach a certain point on the sidewalk into reverse motion, then forward, backward, perpetually like a pianist playing the same scale up and down cyclically. These figures are not freed from time, but tortured by its fluctuation: time becomes unnatural and the viewer's realistic connection to the imagery, tainted. This forward/reverse technique challenges Bazin's other essay, "The Evolution of the Language of Cinema" where he argues that the long-take/depth of focus filmic device amplifies realism due to the absence of cuts, granting viewers a choice to scan the screen and look at what s/he chooses absent of spoon-fed cutting. This yoyo-like forward/reverse sequence in DAUGHTER-RITE does not cut, thus rendering it a long-take; however, since reverse motion is not technically a representation of "reality," per se, the amplified realism Bazin insists should be present in such a long-take is cracked by Citron's surrealistic forward/reverse/forward/reverse technique. Despite choppiness, the cyclic image forces viewers to meditate on the same imagery in a prolonged interlude. Choices become limited and topical realism is diminished. Viewers become hypnotized after all such "image-scanning" choices are exhausted and relinquish the supposed free-choice to the repeated imagery.
Citron's film, although not widely known or recognized, is a fundamental piece in understanding several rudiments of film theory. DAUGHTER-RITE should be considered amidst the most basic strives to understand cinematic ontology.
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