James Benning's Nightfall
Sunday October 27, 2013, 7:30 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents Nightfall
Filmmaker James Benning in person!
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028
Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.
Los Angeles Filmforum presents James Benning's Nightfall! "'Nightfall' is a study of real-time light changing from day to night. It was filmed in a forest high up in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains." (James Benning).
Nightfall (2011, digital, color, sound, 98 min.) consists of a single 98-minute shot made at a high elevation in the woods in the west Sierras that begins in late afternoon as the sun is going down and ends in near blackness. Widely acclaimed for his great 16mm durational films about the American landscape, James Benning has been making new work in digital HD since 2009. One of the possibilities of digital filming that Benning has reveled in is the extreme duration possible, an extension of his earlier film work in which shots were one minute or ten minutes long. Now With Nightfall, he invites the audience to slow down and observe the most basic elements of nature in a way that very few of us do.
Benning's use of duration reflects his accord with Henry David Thoreau's passage from Walden, "No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking at what is to be seen?"
"Nightfall is a provocative and artful inquiry into Benning's philosophy that landscape is a function of time, of duration, and that looking and listeningpaying close attentionare elevated and elevating practices of life. Benning is endlessly interested in finding out "what duration does to your relationship to an image over time, with slowing down."
"Pure, radical, and with minimal means, Benning gives us an information-rich image of something that eludes everyday life for the majoritywilderness, and an acute experience of something equally elusivetime. Nightfall is a tutorial for slowing pace, for looking closely, for meditative thinking. Benning regards Nightfall as a "portrait of solitude." When asked at a screening whether the film mirrors his personal path, he replied, "I have anxiety, and this calms me down, but this isn't a reflection of how I live my life; it's a reflection of how I want to live."
"When I first saw Nightfall, I was grateful to experience the heightened consciousness of time passing that the film induces. How often do we get to sit and watch night descend over a patch of mountaintop forest? While watching, my mind ran the gamut, from extreme focus to enchantment to aimless wandering to tranquility, restlessness, and sleepiness. Three-quarters or so in, the experience intensifiedmoments of muting illumination that may well have been synchronized with the actuality of twilight becoming dusk. I was stunned by the excitement of the eventthe incidence of nightfalland the event of the film, which struck me on the spot as a tour de force, compelling for its clarity, subtlety, and quietude. Observing the gradual darkness felt like a revelation. I was sorry when Nightfall ended." - JA
500 Words with James Benning on his cabin and Nightfall:
Review on Nightfall from AV Festival in the UK:
James Benning (born 1942) is an independent filmmaker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of 33 Benning received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin where he had studied with David Bordwell. For the next four years he taught filmmaking at Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin, University of Oklahoma and the University of California, San Diego.
Benning was hailed cinema's voice of the Midwest with his 1976/1978 films, 11 x 14 and One Way Boogie Woogie, made in Chicago and Milwaukee and the surrounding rural region. In 1980, Benning moved to lower Manhattan, where, with the aid of grants and funding from German Television, he continued to make films, most notably, American Dreams (1984) and Landscape Suicide (1986). Leaving New York after eight years, Benning moved west to teach film/video at California Institute of the Arts, and has taught there ever since. In the early 1990s Benning made a series of text/image films: North on Evers (1991), Deseret (1995), Four Corners (1997), and UTOPIA (1998), often invoking histories of how antagonistic cultural and economic agendas over land use shape landscapes and configure social environments.
Benning has employed diverse methods, themes, structures, and aesthetics, investigating narrative and anti-narrative modes, personal history, race, collective memory, place, industry, and landscape. His philosophy of "landscape as a function of time," and "Looking and Listening" (which is also the name of a course taught by Benning) is particularly evident in his films since 1999 in the form of fixed, stable shots. For instance, each of El Centro, Los, and SogobiThe California Trilogy (2000-2001) is composed of 35 2 minute shots.
Benning divides his time between Val Verde, California, and a small town in the Sierra Nevada north of Bakersfield. There, in 2007, Benning built a replica of the cabin Thoreau constructed in 1845 on Walden Pond. The following year Benning erected a copy of the cabin Ted Kaczynski built in 1971 in Montana. Inside the cabins Benning has installed a number of copies he made of paintings by artists that have deeply inspired him, including Bill Traylor, Henry Darger, and Mose Tolliver.
This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2013 is our 38th year.
Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
Nov 3&4 Bruce Baillie at REDCAT
Nov 12 Tribute to Allan Sekula at MOCA
Nov 17 Tribute to Allan Sekula: The Forgotten Space
Nov 24 Scott Stark
Memberships available, $70 single, $115 dual, or $50 single student
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Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian (View)
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
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