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5 September 2008 (Canada)  »

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'If you're going to San Francisco...'
6 April 2011 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

Nathaniel Dorsky provided a helpful explanation to some elements of WINTER at the School of Visual Arts screening of four of his works. Winter in San Francisco is the rainy season, with verdant plant life springing up, and it is these two elements which dominate this unrewarding abstract movie.

I'm not on Dorsky's wavelength, and find his experimental exercises tedious. Amidst the blurry focus and layers of obscuring objects and material is an occasional interesting shot, here revolving around the use of rain droplets. One sequence of beaded water presented abstract patterns that were a relief but generally Dorsky's obsession with clouds and plants, all supremely distorted, leaves me cold.

His is not a world of conventional observation, but rather a dark, sometimes threatening view. Typically the camera is looking up at the sky through gobs of extraneous material or viewing reality (such as it is) in the reflection of mud puddles. Why students of art (and art history) gobble this up as "beauty" is beyond me, as was the programming of his films in an academic salute to Kandinsky and "the spiritual in Art".

Pretentious exercises in poor technique like this have marginalized creative "underground" filmmaking, which was almost center-stage when I was a young film buff in the '60s. Certainly back then I could see the works of Vanderbeek, Kuchar Bros., Emshwiller and Brakhage in large doses on a weekly basis, at real local theaters. Nowadays, if I want to see the poorly framed, always too closeup cinema favored by Dorsky, I can merely head to the multiplex and watch any crappy Hollywood feature by Tony Scott or a myriad of other TV commercial and music video-trained hacks. Of course, to get Dorsky's silent effect you'll need industrial strength earplugs to block out the annoying soundtracks.


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