Monday, June 22, 2015

Station to Station (or How Not to Make a Film)

Another film I saw at the fourth annual Oak Cliff Film Festival was dir. Doug Aitken's Station to Station. Billed as 61 one-minute films, this quasi-documentary of a 24-day, 4000-mile, celebrity/artist-laden train journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific gives the lie to the holistic notion that something can be greater than the sum of its parts. In the program, this film supposedly "fully conceptualize[s] the idea of movement from place to place."

The program misguided us.

Instead of each one-minute segment enticing this viewer toward a more comprehensive conceptualization of time-space, the abrupt shift at the end of each 60-second cycle felt more like a pop-up ad blocking the text I was more interested in reading.

The passengers, all of whom could easily interest me singly–Patti Smith, Beck, Suicide, Kenneth Anger, etc.– come across more as props. Or worse: caricatures. (Especially Cat Power and Gary Indiana.) To be honest, though, even the train itself–the only constant aspect of almost all the snippets–seems an under-developed afterthought.

You know that the one-minute restriction is artificial, that it is meant to tease you toward a much larger backstory, context, experience. But you're never given anything more. There's no conceptualization of movement that doesn't come off the screen in perfectly predigested cliché. The lack of map or itinerary further decontextualizes what's happening so much so as to spoil the overarching theme of the film, the idea behind it. And the artworks and performances developed aboard: derivative at best.

If the train should jump the track, do you want your money back? Yes or no? Y-E-S spells yes. And this train certainly jumped the track. Regardless, here's the trailer. The film is basically a longer version.

STS - Feature Film Trailer from Station to Station on Vimeo.

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