This month's Light and Sound Machine feature is THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, directed by Dan Sallitt. The proceeding short is ALL THAT SHE SURVEYS, directed by Gary Mairs and based on a concept by the filmaker James Benning. The screening will take place Thursday, March 21st at 7pm at Third Man Records. Tickets are available for $10 at thirdmanstore.com or for Belcourt members at a discount for $8 via the Belcourt website. All member and non-member tickets will be available via will call, day-of-film, at Third Man beginning at 6pm.
ALL THAT SHE SURVEYS
It begins something like a story - at a café, we see an unnamed girl (Amy Seimetz from TINY FURNITURE (2010), UPSTREAM COLOR (2013) and director of last year’s SUN DON’T SHINE) sitting alone, taking notice of a man, also alone, on the other side of the room. As we watch her, watching him, we anticipate contact between the two - a moment of intersection that that would propel the development of any other film. But ALL THAT SHE SURVEYS is not like any other film. By omitting dialogue and narrative convention, director Gary Mairs suggests that by simply observing the gestures and reactions of Seimetz’s silent voyeur, the audience not only mirrors her heuristic gaze, but joins her in a curious game of speculative empathy. Based on a concept by experimental filmmaker James Benning, ATSS directly channels his distinctive method of meditative cinematic observation, replacing his expansive American landscapes with Seimetz’s equally captivating visage.
THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT
Critic and filmmaker Dan Sallit makes no attempt to shroud or make payoff from the unmentionable deed to which the title of his film alludes - wide-eyed, intelligent teenager Jackie (Tallie Medel) and her brother Matthew (Sky Hirschkron) share an emotional bond that flirts dangerously close with the more-than-platonic realm. As Jackie begins to feel this bond slipping away, she confides to Matthew, with astonishing candor, her desire to breach that physical boundary. Though Jackie’s wayward longings may sound like the edgy premise of some transgressive cinematic provocation, the triumph of THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT is Sallitt’s tender treatment of its subject. Jackie is not a perverse sicko, and her domestic environment isn’t rigged to provide an accusational explanation for her behavior. Instead, we’re given a coming-of-age portrait of a young woman on the verge of major psychological transition. With its lack of soundtrack and austere mise-en-scene, the film eschews high drama in order to make room for the subtle shifts in tone and character interactions through which Jackie’s growth into self-realization unfolds.
Dedicated to the memory of the French master of conversational cinema, Eric Rohmer, Sallitt’s film is intrinsically linked to the spirit of his work - that less is more, and that sometimes to speak is to show. In what would appear to be a watershed moment in Sallitt’s career, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT was at the center of a recent retrospective of his work, hosted by New York’s Anthology Film Archives.