Greetings again from the darkness. Day two of the 4th annual Oak Cliff Film Festival reminded me why I so enjoy this “rogue” festival … it always provides a completely new cinematic experience. How does a movie consisting of 62 one minute movies strike you? That’s precisely what filmmaker Doug Aitken delivers in what could be called experimental or high-concept film. However you label it, when the ride ended, I was ready for 62 more.
The project involves a 24 day, 4000 mile cross-country train ride between New York and San Francisco. Director Aitken’s introductory segment provides somewhat of an overview for his vision, and the subsequent one-minute blips blend seamlessly with the feel of the scattered views out the window of our own train car.
Some familiar faces pop up on the trip, including Patti Smith, Jackson Browne, Beck, Thurston Moore, Cat Power, and Mavis Staples. There are also flamenco dancers, marching bands, a self-described husker, and the kinetic drawing machine/apparatus of artist Olafur Eliasson – allowing the train itself to organically create art.
Taken as a celebration of art, the film is a work of art (and/or 62 separate pieces of art), that reminds us individual expression comes in various forms. Many will find joy in exposure (albeit it brief) to new bands and new music, while also taking in the 10 “happenings” along the way. These happenings actually take us off the train and into a location for an event.
While there is no traditional plot, the segments come so quickly, that we are engaged from the beginning, and in no way prepared for number 62 to derail the ride. Whether art is individual expression or a form of freedom really isn’t the point … let’s just be thankful that Doug Aitken and so many others are willing (maybe driven?) to share their creative force.