Every single piece of cinema can be traced back to Auguste and Louis Lumiere, a pair of French filmmakers who were essentially the first people to ever create motion pictures. One of their films depicts a close relative of theirs getting married. The film, which runs barely a minute, shows the guests of the bride and groom walking up the steps of a church into the ceremony. Deciding that this would be a good opportunity for experimentation, director Ken Jacobs, who previously set out to illustrate the flatness of films with his 1969 film Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, defies all notion of narrative and character by extending the one minute film to a feature length of 70 minutes, transferring it to 3D, and adding a new, ominous score over it.
The result is an occasionally fascinating and creepy little movie, one that builds upon previously conceived notions of what a film should be, only to toss them out the window with a fury and frustration that can only result in a film like the one that was made. Jacobs uses his 70 minutes as best he can with the restraints that are imposed upon him. He never deviates from the Lumiere’s film, and somewhere at around the 35 minute mark you may find yourself wanting to jump off a building, but there’s something to be said about a project so unabashedly uncaring about audience or even how it will be perceived.
By extending this one fairly short shot to feature length, Jacobs is making a powerful statement on the era of film that we live in today, one that focuses far too much attention on constant stimulation, and not nearly enough on crafting a beautiful image, looking at it, and appreciating the artistry of what’s on-screen. Now, did Jacobs need 70 minutes to make this point? Absolutely not, and there’s no reason why this film needs to be a feature. Jacobs says what he wants to say within the first 30 minutes of this film, but insists that we embrace the beauty of it for another 40 minutes to really hammer it home. Admittedly, Jacobs’ slowing down of the image does produce something new and exciting in its wake, but I couldn’t help but think that the film could’ve been much stronger if he would have considered cutting out a few frames in the middle.
4 out of 10 points
The same exact thing could be said of Jacobs’ Wire Fence, which will be premiering as a precedent to The Guest in all the upcoming screenings. For those who have seen Godard’s Goodbye to Language, you’ll remember that one of the film’s most striking images is the simple composition of a woman standing behind a fence. In 2D, it’s an unremarkable image, but in 3D it assumes a new function of being.
Now imagine watching that fence shot for 22 straight minutes. That is, in essence, Wire Fence. Inspired by the perpetual construction that takes place on his block, Jacobs took a 3D camera and shot stills of the many distorted wire fences that block off the construction zones along the street. The result is gorgeous but, like The Guests, it’s overkill. I see what Jacobs is showing us, I see what he’s saying. The way he slaps over a coherent audio track to still images is an interesting choice. The fences themselves are fascinating to look at. But when Jacobs starts using the same image twice – or at least two images that are awfully similar – is when it’s time to roll the credits.
Wire Fence would have probably worked much better as even a 10-minute film. You can only ask so much of your audience before they begin to turn on you, and no amount of twists and turns within the fence can justify the idea that this movie needs to be this long. It’s an interesting concept, and the composition of the images keeps it from becoming entirely unwatchable, but Jacobs’ attempts to cultivate a mood are unsuccessful and, ultimately, tedious.
6 out of 10 pointsReturn to First Look 2015 Coverage
The Guests: 70 minutes
Wire Fence: 22 minutes