Two people stand on a road, out of focus. Seen distorted through a glass, they retire upstairs to a bedroom where she undresses. He says, "Adieu." Images: the beautiful girl, a starfish in ... See full summary »
Kiki of Montparnasse,
André de la Rivière,
Milo is a railroad brakeman, his wife a painter. They have some poet friends who spend a good bit of time hanging out at their apartment. When Milo and his wife are visited by their bishop,... See full summary »
Moving spheres, such as balloons and bubbles, are superimposed on static backgrounds to suggest travel and discovery. There are perils: a boy falls, a lion roars. The lyric flights of ... See full summary »
A long series of unrelated images, revolving, often distorted: lights, flowers, nails. A lightboard appears from time to time carrying the news of the day. Then, an eye. A woman in a car ... See full summary »
The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of forty years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.
Along with a few others, "Serene Velocity" is considered one of the most important structuralist films ever created, one made during the earlier moments of the structuralist film movement. Like other such recognized films of the period, the short bases upon itself upon one significant concept frequently used in all of structuralism: flickering and stroboscopic effects. Many artists had been experimenting with such effects for several years by this point, in a variety of different ways: Tony Conrad, and his strobe effects through alternating black and white frames in "The Flicker" (1965), and Paul Sharits with flickering color frames in the films "N:O:T:H:I:N:G" (1968) and "T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G" (1969). But Ernie Gehr's most known work tries this concept on a different level by using real photography in one simple setting to achieve a more unique look, and while the end results aren't exactly as effective as one (including myself) might hope, it nonetheless does an interesting job taking advantage of that one setting.
"Serene Velocity" is set in a little-used basement hallway of a university building, pointing the camera down the dimly-lit corridor to make a visually interesting view. The entire film is a consistent pulsing (it's really not flickering so much) of the camera lens switching between that far away view and a zoomed-in view of the end of the hallway. The illusion is simple: when one looks at it in a certain manner, it feels as though the camera is flying down the corridor, never reaching the end, in the manner of a loop. To some extent this works, and as an illusion it is interesting in using this particular setting to make it possible. The real problem for me is that the movement itself is not a quick flicker, nor does the movement really change significantly. If one do pay attention, they can see the second shot get closer and closer to the end of the hallway so that by the end it is practically all the way down, but this happened so gradually I didn't notice it until later. The effect of the film doesn't really take off and keep the viewer consistently engaged, it mainly just sits there (another viewer said about the same). My expectations might very well be far off - Gehr may never have wanted it to truly flicker - but it was really the use of this powerful effect that would have made it for me.
Of course, it still goes without saying that the concept and the setup remain interesting. The use of the setting to create such an illusion is visually interesting to be sure, and any good filmmaker who entered the hallway and been inspired like Gehr was would do the same thing. But the execution remains somewhat limited in what it does because the effect never strongly takes off, and to me it felt like the potential of the idea could have been explored further.
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