287 Great Directors: James Benning

“I don’t know if that’s good advice or not. That’s a complex thing, how the human brain works, what bogs you down. Maybe if you don’t know the past you won’t develop those prejudices in the future? Maybe our track record as human beings is so bad that we shouldn’t remember the past? People say ‘Never forget’; maybe it’s good to forget, sometimes.”


Why This Director?
: Might as well go for a really serious experimenter.

My Last Experience Was…: None.

What Did I Watch: Landscape Suicide.

Where Does He Fit: “Blink and you’ll miss it” is an expression that becomes literal in Landscape Suicide, with the frame blacking out for a few seconds at a time. What detail have we missed in the complexities of the boring days and trials that are going on? Self absorption is many things in this, from a long look at a tennis player that uses a rarely seen shot-reverse shot pattern to the perspective of a man questioning Bernadette Prott over her decision to stab her friend, our perspective slowly aligning with a man who doesn’t give a shit about this woman’s fate even when her clear desperation is beginning to leak out when she talks about the damn humiliation that is to come, the sheer cosmic sadness of how hard it is to be a teenager who does not fit in and how it is even worse if you get older and happen to turn into Ed Gein, after a brief interlude set to Memory from Cats as a girl does sweet fuck all in her room and gossips away on the phone, unheard, but you have to wonder just what she is discussing…and then we find out a little more regarding that song later on. The next sequence involves pure cinema, nothing but a long glance at boring landscapes with the sound of the wind of traffic. We’re going rural to understand the mind of a taxidermist, and realizing that all the states are the same thanks to the similar landmarks in California/Minnesota. Spoiling the rest would be criminal.

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Most Valuable Asset: Static love of the land.
Most Excited For: Everything else he does is a documentary, oddly enough. Stemple Pass?

Coming Up Next: Arguably my favorite female director, Andrea Arnold.

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