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Posts tagged ‘experimental film’

Towards a Minor-Key Cinema: Phil Solomon at Melwood

As a child I would listen to oldies radio stations, and certain songs would draw me in. Songs by girl groups were often hard to tell apart: bright instrumentation, sunny harmonies, always about love. But some girl group songs added something indelibly sad to that sound that I couldn’t place. The way the background singers would turn their notes downward in the chorus of “Be My Baby” just before the main vocal came in and the melodic line in “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” made the songs rich and full of longing. Some years later, taking music lessons, I surmised that these and other songs that had made me feel the same way (like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”) used minor-mode variations: minor chords, changes, and keys that flattened the third and gained a romantic depth borne of some prelinguistic pain. The recent work of Phil Solomon, screened at Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Melwood Screening Room on April 4th, seems to be after something of a piece with these episodes in popular music, looking for a combination of image and sound that will overpower with epic, aching beauty. (Given his acknowledged debts to 60s artists like the Beach Boys and the Beatles, who learned a great deal from Spectorized pop, this is hardly surprising.) Solomon’s Grand Theft Auto Works and his Corcoran-commissioned American Falls, though widely divergent in subject matter, share this basic sensibility. They feel too familiar to seem properly avant-garde. This isn’t because he deals with popular materials, but because he recalls and continues familiar experiences with popular culture. Taking the cinematic qualities of Grand Theft Auto to their logical (yet unexpectedly moving) conclusions and boiling American iconography into a liquid monument of loss are as roughly familiar to New Sincerity as they are to the experimental film tradition. (And both carry on the concerns of Romanticism, albeit in different ways.) Read more