The same lake, the same tree, shot in the same way; repetition is a key element in this world premiere by Ohio filmmaker Richard Myers. Simpler, quieter, and more spacious than much of his earlier work, Myers’ MOVING PICTURES is exactly what its title indicates: a series of high-contrast, black-and-white photographs in constant flux. Even though Myers uses a generic title—all film is moving pictures—he is on to something here. This is not a film about film, but a film about the artist’s dreams, for which the medium of film is perfectly suited.
Much of Myers’ previous work had been dream-like with irrational, seemingly strange juxtapositions of disparate elements, and its subversion of ordinary perceptions of space and time. What makes this film different is its stubborn refusal to be anything other than a film recreating one man’s dreams. Unlike early experiments in dream cinema (Deren / Dali / Bunuel) the images and sequences in MOVING PICTURES defy interpretation.
No easy Jungian or Freudian analysis here. There are actors and they do have roles (the Crazy Lady, the Muse) but there is no depth of characterization, no motivation, no psychological make-up of any kind. And there are archetypes, decidedly modern ones, drawn from the artist’s consciousness of his own environment rather than a ‘collective’ unconscious: automobiles, framed photographs, body builders, Christmas decorations, semi-trucks, carnival horses. A narrator states at one point, ‘I have no illusions that I lead a life of larger meanings,’ and elsewhere speaks of a ‘dream of life in memory and fantasy.’ This is Myers’ film, based on his own dreams, memories, and fantasies. He has invited us to share them; we are amply rewarded.
Composed entirely of tracking shots that move from right to left, MOVING PICTURES are pictures that move in different ways. Because they all move in the same direction, and at roughly the same pace, the effect is that of a gradual unrolling of a dream scroll, or a tour of a dreamland as seen from a vehicle that moves across the landscape. Within this format, Myers has divided the film into subtitled sequences which capture individual dreams.
Three of these sections are distinguished from the others by a narration that consists of definitions and connotations of their subtitles, and taken together they help define the modus operandi of the film. One is called ‘Place,’ and the film, shot mostly in Northeastern Ohio, is imbued with a sense of place. The camera glides past and through buildings, tents, lakes, forests, bridges, warehouses, scaffoldings, churches, and parking lots. We want to stop and look but the camera won’t let us. He seems to be saying we may return to this place later; then again, we may not. In the film, as in dreams, repetitions are unpredictable. ‘Can’t think about the past,’ a narrator says. ‘I’ve also stopped thinking about the future.’ In dreams it is always the present. We have no time for analysis and no time for planning; we’re just along for the ride.
Another sequence is subtitled ‘Look,’ and the film as a whole is concerned with ways of seeing and the process of selecting and recombining visual (and audio) information. Many of the ‘Moving Pictures’ are shot through automobile windshields. We as viewers are looking through two filters: the movie screen itself and the windshield glass. At one point, a segment of grey leader is followed by the narrator’s comment that ‘sometimes it’s difficult to get the ice off the windshield.’ Our view of the world is obstructed by our preconceptions: dreams help melt these opacities. Myers has a lot of fun with dash-board ornaments and objects dangling from rear-view mirrors, which often comment ironically on the action or objects on the other side of the glass.
A third sequence is called ‘Play,’ and it is playfulness that makes ‘Looking’ at ‘Places’ worthwhile, and creation possible. This is a fun movie, with a wealth of amusing juxtapositions of objects, backgrounds, actors, dialogue, sounds, and narration. Although divided into sections, MOVING PICTURES is unified by the orchestrations of repetitions and variations. Landscapes and objects reappear in new configurations; characters invade unlikely scenes. Things seem familiar and yet make no sense. That is, after all, how dreams work.”
Frank Green Critic and Essayist, Cleveland Free Times
A mainstay of the (Athens) festival’s commitment to experimental cinema, from Kent State University, is Richard Myers. His Moving Pictures is a feature built upon a single, continuous, horizontal movement of the camera—a relentless right to left tracking of the lens onto a consistently complex and enthralling dream scape. Like Hale’s Tours, the principal device is as though from an earlier cinema. An older, Eastern-European sounding woman narrates her dreams which we see enacted in a number of overlapping and discontinuous vignettes, connected by faults and lapses and ellipses. The themes of her dreams construct a twentiethcentury history of magicians, circuses, and cinema which all collide to construct Myers’ chronicle. His unspoken conceit may be the notion that the history of our century and the history of cinema (spectacle) are one and the same, both tumbling to the end of the millennium.”
Jason Simon, Dialogue Magazine
Richard Myers’ MOVING PICTURES which copped the ‘Most Innovative Film Award’ and the co-winner of the ‘Best Narrative Film,’ the first ‘double’ winner in Ann Arbor Film Festival history (1990) may have been the most uncompromising of all entries. A semi-surrealist, feature-length epic ... featured a woman’s recollections of dreams, visualized in elaborate, mostly dilapidated settings in the most starkly etched black-and-white, and as Richard Kerr stressed Sunday night. ‘MOVING PICTURES, is a prime example of looking at cinema in a new way.’”
Christopher Potter, The Ann Arbor News
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