Ben Lynch and Brad Beesley editor Lousiana Kreutz’s eleven minute The Bicycle Cowboy doesn’t just hark back to the feeling of early 20th century American cinema, but provides for an interesting metaphor about the clash of today’s progressive movement. We’re first introduced to a cowboy riding along an unseen pathway, but only revealed from waist up. Traditional cowboy iconography calls to mind concepts of American honor and duty, yet what the camera reveals is this cowboy rides upon a bicycle. This addendum to traditional cowboy iconography implies activism, energy conservation, and anti-capitalism/globalism. These concepts are usually in constant battle, and what’s so interesting about this imagery, suggests that our concept of mythic history should contend with an updated concept of “the West,” one in which activism is just as dominant a mode of conduct in America as that of any codes of the “western.” As two cowboys fight over the control of bikes for the heart of a young woman what results is a narrative that questions the conventions of aggressive and competitive resolution. The film ends with a “winner,” as both cowboys come to realize the young woman has played them against each other. While the reconfiguration of the American cowboy myth is progressive, what remains a problem is the inactive female, upon whom the blame remains at the end of the film (the implied indecisiveness is quite misogynistic). Perhaps any follow up cycle, as is the nature of American myth/cinema, will address such problems.
In Mr. Hypnotism Brad Beesley’s talent of finding unique individuals is paired with his abilities to conjure honesty in a document of fiendish magician Dr. Ronald Dante. The film has a great array of historical footage and contemporary magic act scenes that reveals less about his day-to-day manipulation skills and more of his clever wit. And while Ronald Dante is an amazingly funny character, what’s most interesting is not his entertaining abilities, but why he’s such great manipulator. The film introduces some notoriety about his star-adjacent nature, or his faux-university scam, but what would take these interesting anecdotes to another level is observing immediate moments where we see how it is Dante manipulates anyone with his charming personality. Hypnotism feels as though it’s a short dedicated to revealing the structure of a lengthier piece, who’s reason for abandonment comes when Dante explicitly acknowledges he was a con man without any mystery. Yet, Dante’s flat out admission implies something working beyond the moments captured, beyond his seemingly open interviews to suggest he’s perhaps manipulated this work to its conclusions so quickly for his own reasons. The film has successfully made me desire more of the story, more of Dante, and more of the film’s revelations about humanity, performance, and perhaps our own masochistic desires to be manipulated.
Salisbury’s capture of the Flaming Lips’s Embyronic album creation methods on HD reveals not only the more sculpted nature of “improv” (through pronounced references to Godard’s Sympathy For the Devil), but defines comfort in exploration. Just as in Sympathy, Blastula: The Making of Embryonic has a dominant image: a camera that searches for a moment – something yet to be defined, a strong allegory to the band’s process. While, in Sympathy, such moments reveal to the audience an ultimate conclusion about the political metaphor of The Rolling Stones’ “Beggar’s Banquet,” Blastula is less clear about any such revelation about the Lips’ album Embryonic. Although this is historically against the nature of The Lips’ representation, the film does defy this marketing strategy in clearly revealing band members’ identities, relationships, and thought processes through expository and conventional talking-head interviews. The strength of this work relies on this juxtaposition, and provides an entry point to what would otherwise be seemingly unrelated dolly shots. The excitement of this film does not necessarily arrive via the nature of wonder and mystery (like it does within the Lips’ feature Christmas On Mars), but more in the moments of understanding when achievement does occur – the real resultant joys of anything improvised are extremely difficult to reveal, and is the real success of this interesting making-of document.