A second-story room overlooking a busy New York Street. The camera is placed high in a corner of the room, looking toward the windows and the street. The room is sparsely furnished, with only a desk in front of the window, a wooden desk chair, a phone on the desk, and a yellow dinette-style chair next to the desk. Three photos are tacked on a narrow strip of wall between two windows, to the right of the desk. Two men enter, carrying an empty bookcase, which the woman with them directs to place against the wall to the left. They all depart. Traffic noise is heard, loudly, through an open window. A barely perceptible, incremental zoom begins. Two women enter: one goes to the left of the desk and turns on a radio or record player which plays "Strawberry Fields"; the other woman closes the window and sits by it for a while. After a while, mid-song, the radio or phonograph is turned off, and both women leave. The zoom continues. The ambient noise is replaced by a simultaneous low buzz and high-pitched whine, interrupted briefly by some clattering noises which may or may not contain a gunshot or shots. There are moments when the screen goes white for several seconds; it is not always evident if this indicates a cut, but often it seems to. The natural light changes, the street scene outside sometimes darkens, and there are optical changes in which the scene turns dark, or red, or green. The inexorable zoom narrows the visual field steadily, directed steadily toward the desk. A man enters from the bottom of the frame, seeming to walk normally, then clutches his chest and collapses on the floor. The slow zoom keeps him briefly in sight, then passes over him. A woman comes in and picks-up the phone, while staring toward the floor. She tells the man who answers that she is "here", but there's a dead man on the floor and she's frightened. She says she will wait downstairs, and leaves. In the film's most fascinating moments, her ghosted image reappears, superimposed several times on the present zoom.
Now the focal point of the zoom appears to be the three photos on the wall. However, it seems to me that at a certain point, the photo in the upper left changes, from what had appeared at a distance as some kind of photograph to two duplicate solid black pictures with a white silhouette of a woman. Perhaps I'm mistaken. But - if so, that, and the discontinuous zoom, throw into question, for me, the point of the film. If it's not an exercise in stillness in real time, what exactly is it? And why do avant-garde filmmakers of the 60's so often revert to B-movie genre tropes (like Godard, for example)?
The irritating soundtrack noise reaches a maddening crescendo as the image of the lower photo nearly fills the screen; a cut superimposes a ghosted larger image of the photo behind the actual photo on the wall. What had seemed, from a distance, to be photo of mountaintops amid swirling clouds turns out to be an almost abstract shot of oceanic waves. Finally, as the soundtrack is mercifully silenced, the entire screen is filled with the image of the waves. And the patient viewer is rewarded by suddenly being taken out of the present time, out of the time of the film, to an entirely different time and space.
Which, I suppose, is the point.
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