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Stranded in Canton (2005)

| Documentary | 2008 (USA)
In 1973, photographer William Eggleston picked up a Sony PortaPak and took to documenting the soul of Memphis and New Orleans.


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Credited cast:
Marsha Hare ...
Furry Lewis ...
Jerry McGill ...

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In 1973, photographer William Eggleston picked up a Sony PortaPak and took to documenting the soul of Memphis and New Orleans.

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2008 (USA)  »

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Like a secret time trip back to the early 70's
7 October 2005 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

"Stranded in Canton" had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 14, 2005 in a paired screening with Michael Almereyda's new documentary "William Eggleston in the Real World". There may have been several other previous screenings but the only other one that I easily found on the internet was when it opened the 6th annual Memphis International Film Festival on April 21, 2005.

Eggleston filmed about 30 hours of footage in the years 1973-74 and this has been recently edited down to 76 minutes for this final production which Eggleston said was now finished. Director Robert Gordon and film editor John Olivio assisted Eggleston with this final distillation and Eggleston himself provides an occasional commentary right in the film itself as shown. Perhaps the eventual DVD release will have a more complete commentary, but with the laconic Eggleston, this might very well be it. The little that Eggleston said was usually humorous and gave some comic relief.

The film left me feeling nostalgic for various hell-raising drunken friends from my own youth because the vibe here was as if William Eggleston had traveled back in time to secretly film these people in the early seventies. Most of them seem quite oblivious to the camera and with the infra-red lens some of this may have been filmed almost in pitch darkness so people were even more likely to act uninhibited. The video technology itself was so new that many may not have even understood that a movie camera was in fact being used. Eggleston films various colorful family friends and sometimes strangers in bars and on the streets. One interesting historical note is the informal performance footage of Memphis based blues guitarist/musician Furry Lewis (1899-1981) performing at a private house party (Lewis is the musician name-checked in the Joni Mitchell song "Furry Sings The Blues" on the 1976 Hejira album).

A word of warning for those with modern day PETA sympathies: one scene here captures the old-time carnival act of geeking chickens, although it is filmed at a night time street scene. In the days before such TV shows as Fear Factor, you could go to carnivals/circuses where a low-ranked performer would perform acts such as biting the heads of chickens or snakes or eating worms whole etc. for the entertainment of the paying crowds. The low-brow level of this "entertainment" caused the other carnies to disassociate themselves from the "geeks" or "geek men" which has gradually led to the word's modern day connotation of socially inept individuals.

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