petak, 6. rujna 2013.

Phil Solomon - EMPIRE (2008-2012)


Remake eksperimentalnog filma! Naravno, ponašajmo se kao da su "avangardna" djela blockbusteri.
A i sam Solomon je klasik.

A re-make of Andy Warhol’s Empire from high atop the Manhattan Island of Grand Theft Auto IV (“Liberty City”), far from the madding crowd of thieves, cops, prostitutes and murderers down below. I hijacked a copter, leaped onto the rooftop of an adjacent building, spawned a scooter out of the thin air and then gingerly drove it to the very edge of the precipice in order to roughly approximate that familiar view from July 25-26, 1964.

Solomonove filmove možete vidjeti na njegovoj web stranici:

Views from the Avant-Garde: Invisible Cities

By Genevieve Yue

Empire Phi Solomon In Memoriam, Mark LaPore

The 16th edition of Views from the Avant-Garde at the New York Film Festival opened not in a cinema, but on the largest digital monitor in existence. Phil Solomon’s “EMPIRE (2008­–2012) is considerably shorter than the 1964 Andy Warhol film on which it is based—a mere 48 minutes as opposed to Warhol’s endurance-testing eight hours—though in the videogame world in which “EMPIRE” takes place, the film amounts to a full day, passing through rain, sunset, night, and, come the following afternoon, the return of stormy weather. Like the four films of his In Memoriam, Mark LaPore series (for which this and an earlier installation version serve as a coda), “EMPIRE” was machinima-made in various editions of Grand Theft Auto, a game franchise notorious for its glorification of prostitution, crime, and murder. From Solomon’s lofty vantage, however, the mayhem is but a distant din of traffic on the city streets below. Perched on a skyscraper ledge, in an elaborate choreography of avatar, camera, and encoded “cheats,” Solomon allows us to gaze, as Warhol did, at the building across the way: “Rotterdam Tower,” or what is more recognizable as the Empire State Building.
The view is higher and fuller than Warhol’s, which descends quickly into a foggy black and white night. Here in HD clarity we see the orange glow of sunlight on residential complexes to the east, piers jutting into the shimmering water on the Hudson, office lights flickering on in the foreground buildings. Empire looms in the center, and with the clouds wrapped around its pointed tower, it is the scene’s fulcrum, the steady center on a day of subtle though no less dramatic change. Gradually we notice unusual details: the absence of cars, for example, though the occasional car alarm can be heard, and a swarm of red taillights suddenly appears at twilight; Empire always shrouded in shadow, even in the brightness of noon; or a crescent moon that appears to the southeast, only to be replaced by a full one, slightly distended, in the same position. More troubling are the bits of debris flying in the air—though they pass too quickly for our inspection, Solomon revealed in the Q&A that these were fragments of newspaper, sometimes imprinted with photographs—and the many planes that ominously approach the building, pass behind it, and fail to come out the other side. We might note, too, the absence of the Twin Towers on the southern end of the island. However much the world of “EMPIRE” may resemble our own, these strange, quiet phenomena signal a place that’s sealed off, seasonless, and digitally looped in a moment of frozen time. Haunted by the passing of Mark LaPore, who took his own life on the fourth anniversary of 9/11, the dark tower of “EMPIRE” becomes a monument, a stand-in for an absent disaster whose paper remains fall interminably.


PHIL SOLOMON with Leo Goldsmith

This fall has seen two New York premieres of recent works by experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon.“EMPIRE,” which screened at this year’s Views from the Avant-Garde, wittily recreates Andy Warhol’s film of the same name, documenting the Empire State Building in the virtual New York City (a k a Liberty City) of Grand Theft Auto IV for 24 hours of game-time (that’s 48 minutes to you and me). And ongoing at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is Solomon’s epic, three-channel installation piece, American Falls, which offers a richly allegorical account of America’s rise and fall through a torrent of intricately distressed celluloid sourced from a disparate array of films and newsreels, and featuring everyone from Amelia Earhart to King Kong to Robert Oppenheimer to Charlie Chaplin. Through these distorted icons of the past, and amid waves of exquisitely mixed found sounds, Solomon locates a critical meta-history of the American mythos at the intersection of film’s decay and digital media’s ascendancy.
American Falls by Phil Solomon.
Leo Goldsmith (Rail): While watching “EMPIRE,” I was struck by how cinematic it is, which made me think, by contrast, how digital American Falls is. The latter is very much about the properties and textures of celluloid, but it’s also about the manner in which you capture it, and the way you combine all of these elements in the installation space, which would really only be possible digitally.
Phil Solomon: American Falls really straddles the borders between film and digital media throughout the entire process of its making. I began with a kind of needle in a haystack search through an extensive 16mm newsreel collection to little avail, because ultimately I realized that I needed to use fairly recognizable figures and specific events. I had to begin with iconographic images, essential images from television, newsreel journalism, and the cinema. So I scoured through hundreds of DVDs in search of what I considered to be the primary markers of American history. I captured hundreds of digital scenes into timelines, with each scene bordered by fades into and out of black, which essentially translates to the images emerging out of and submerging back into the chemical treatments I employed. I also digitally enhanced the gamma and contrast for every scene because the overall effect of my post-processing treatments is primarily based on the density and location of black in every scene. These Final Cut timelines were then optically transferred, frame-by-frame, to 16mm black-and-white film, which is then processed, printed, treated, dried, and then manually re-photographed again on an optical printer back into jpeg files. I shot over a half million individual photographs of these 16 mm treated frames, enough footage for several feature length films. Digital editing allowed me to finesse the transitions and choreograph events and graphic matches with incredible precision among the three screens. So the huge mural you are finally seeing on the wall at MOMI retains the essential cinematic character of its source material and a particular type of organic photochemical textural beauty, but was only made possible by tweaking, editing, posting, and presenting in the digital medium. And American Falls is therefore also a lamentation for the end of cinema, whose lifespan essentially bookended the 20th century, which is the primary locus of the photographed events in the work.
Rail: So why was the triptych structure important for you? Falls was originally commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., so it probably had something to do with the dimensions of that space?
Solomon: I care deeply for the triptychs of Van Eyck and Bosch, but I was fairly naïve in the area of multi-screen video installation art. I’d seen a few of Christian Marclay’s and some of Bill Viola’s pieces and so on, but really very few overall. So thinking about cinema horizontally as well as vertically was a new and fascinating learning process for me. It felt very akin to a composer working along a musical staff, creating melodies that evolve in time, with simultaneous harmonic events above and below the main through-line and orchestrating timbres of color that work in concert together in a total dance of articulated light and rhythm. But I quickly realized there are lots of potential traps when you work horizontally. Two cherries and a lemon will show up, and you can easily create unintended mixed metaphors with content and context. I was terrified of that, working with historical footage, because the potential for mis-readings of the complex issues of social, historical, and political juxtapositions and contexts within the montage now became tripled.
In 1999, an Associate Curator of Photography and Media at the Corcoran, Paul Roth, came to the New York Film Festival and saw a film of mine called Walking Distance, which uses the same kind of technique and has something of the same look as the Falls. He came out to Colorado and asked to see all of my films and was very excited by them and subsequently invited me to the Corcoran and offered that I could use any room in the museum that I wished to do their first commissioned installation. I had never been to Washington before, and it was absolutely frigid that winter. This was New Year’s 2000, the dawn of the Bush era. And of course, D.C. is a complicated city, but the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a city of the dead. Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by monuments to the dead. From all of my elementary school education and indoctrination, I was at once moved by them, but also aware of the essential contradiction of these monuments existing as memorial gravestones within the very heart of the city that declared these wars and sent these men and women to their graves. Washington is such a culturally impressive but politically and economically disgusting city in so many ways. It was the Korean War memorial, of all things, that inspired me the most. I wasn’t aware that it even existed before. You are looking at this wall of granite with a collage of ghostlike images embedded in the stone staring back at you, and it’s really haunting.
As you enter the Corcoran, you walk up the marble steps and there’s a beautiful rotunda area that is the gateway to the rest of the Museum. And at the time, there was a surround-sound, six-channel projection installation by Jennifer Steinkamp, a California artist who projects multi-channel videos onto architecture. She had a seven-second loop of candy-colored squiggles accompanied by music. And the people walking through the museum were delighted; it created kind of an amusement park atmosphere for spectator shadow play. So I was kind of charmed by that ambience. And then on the first floor of the Corcoran is Frederick Church’s great painting of Niagara Falls. So I began to imagine the surround possibilities of the rotunda, which of course invokes the nearby Capitol building and whose shape alludes to the metaphorical and imagistic power of Church’s Niagara Falls—and right there and then I said to them, “I’ll make a piece called American Falls, and we’ll do it in here.” I thought about the shape of the famous Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and how that particular body of water is one of the upper the limits of our country. I had a sense that the piece would be about American divisions and contradictions, which is perfect for the triptych format, where the panels could metaphorically comment on each other in various configurations. And it would also be my monument to the American fallen, in every sense I could think of. When I began to do some research about the Native American myths surrounding Niagara, I had my primary allegory and central image—the Maid of the Mist who launches herself over Niagara Falls in despair. She would later be joined by The Great Blondin, who walked above the Falls on a tightrope, and Annie Edson Taylor, who was the first to go over the in a barrel and survive. My American Falls begins and ends with them.
I wanted to make something that was completely outsized and grand, and that flew in the face of what I think of as the minimal, one-liner installation. I often find that, when I attend multi-projection installations, I will consciously or subconsciously look for the quickest reason to leave each piece. In the cinema, I sit in the dark; there’s a high visual and audio signal-to-noise ratio, and I give myself over to the intensity and authority of the screen. With installations, I often find myself smugly resistant because, you know, they often don’t have any kind of aura, a particular ambience that invites you to give yourself over to it. I’m perfectly aware that there’s a kind of postmodern conscious resistance to cinematic aura and its semi-fascistic control over the senses, but something is also lost when we left the darkened rooms of cinema. I wanted to make something that was rich, complex, and orchestral because I’m so deeply involved with music. Brakhage used to quote Walter Pater who said, “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” For Stan, I think that essentially meant abstraction. For me, I wanted to make something ambiguous, structurally intricate, extremely ambitious and fairly impossible to fully absorb on one visit. But something that would invite the viewer to stay and to behold. Something that would mesmerize.
Rail: And there was a single-channel version of the piece at one point?
Solomon: I made a reduced version that we showed at Views a couple of years ago. A single-channel, 16:9 HD triptych. And I thought—because it does have a narrative arc, it actually has a specific beginning and a climactic ending and postlude—that it could work as a movie. But now, having seen this installation, I’m no longer interested in showing the reduced version because something interesting happened when it was finally mounted at MOMI. When I showed the reduced—the single-channel version—some people watched it almost as if denuded of its photochemical texture. They responded as if it was a straight History Channel montage, more or less ignoring what the extraordinarily choreographed treatments were expressing and implying. Just reading it for the recognizable content made it seem like a second-grade history primer, or worse, that it was merely reiterating the received grammar school great white men version of history and all that. My whole gamble was that the roiling chemical soup, which yields up and then swallows back the temporary iconographic molds, would provide the built-in critique and be expressive of the contradictory nature of my romance and inevitable disbelief in all of these myths through the physical anxiety of the form itself. If I made these people and events into gold-plated monuments, well they would also become rust, or be set on molten fire, or liquefied, and they would all eventually fall back into the constantly running waters of disbelief, blood and tears. The proof at the exhibit at MOMI is that I think there, finally, the form supersedes or at least is married to the content. You can’t simply reduce it to simple meanings on that scale of presentation.
Rail: You mention the orchestral quality, and one of the first things that struck me was the presence of Charles Ives. “The Unanswered Question,” yes, but also the whole section of the film you devote to him. Even the processes he used, like the relationship between chance processes and the way that he would compose music by incorporating motifs and melodies from other musical sources—
"EMPIRE" by Phil Solomon.
Solomon: That’s right, he was in many ways a found footage collagist, so we are essentially doing the same thing. He was a key inspiration for me, and I wanted to acknowledge that with his own little section, right before World War I. He asks “The Unanswered Question” at the dawn of the new century, and as patriotic as he was, there’s a deep underlying anxiety in all of his music, and “The Unanswered Question” is the perfect example of that. You have these beautiful, silky strings descending from the heavens, and then the trumpet asking the transcendental questions, and the woodwinds undercutting those lofty aspirations with discontent, arguments, chaos and whatnot. In the Fourth Symphony, for example, there’s also this sense of polyphonic chaos that really grew out of his father’s marching band experiments. Sound Designer Wrick Wolff and I imitated what George Ives used to do, which was to have two orchestras playing in different keys, marching against each other in the town square because he wanted to hear what it would sound like. So for me there’s always an underlying anxiety, an undercurrent of dissonance and doubt always there undercutting the patriotism. Often with Ives, after everything clears out, you will hear that dark undertone, that bed of anxiety that lay just below the surface. So I find him a fascinating character because he was a New England transcendentalist but also a crank, and his music has a typically American kind of anxiety to it.
Rail: Did you have a guiding principle for how you balanced the different elements you used—Hollywood and newsreel and even film as documentation, as evidence, like the Zapruder film?
Solomon: It was really just done chapter by chapter, based on key historical markers and what imagery would best serve to illustrate it. We start from the basic theme, which is right there in the title: American Falls. I started to think about what that meant, and the whole idea of the fall, and the rise and fall of the capitalist parabola in particular—what goes up must come down. The uneasy marriage between capitalism and democracy. And the rise and fall of fame; ultimately, the rise and fall of, perhaps, this country. I’ve always been interested in the idea of cinema and loss, the beautiful and poignant conjuring of human presence and its absence. It’s an illusion, we know that, and yet it’s so profoundly vivid and moving. You long for it to be real, and then when it’s over you have to go home and your life isn’t like that, like the dreams that were given to us. I made a list of historical persons I considered to be among the fallen: celebrities, cultural people, political people, etc. Then I listed the key events that created ruptures in the historical timeline. But I decided, for the most part, to play it straight. I read up on my Howard Zinn and many other sources. But this was a commission, in my mind, for a more public kind of work and I wanted to make this a piece that my father and mother might have been able to understand and even be moved by. There was a conscious effort to make the images as legible as possible within my abstracting techniques. So to some degree I was making a primer, a revisionist primer of American history. D.W. Griffith’s takes on American history were perfect for that kind of primer illustration look at the beginning of our story—I used Griffith’s America and I think Birth of a Nation and Abraham Lincoln for the Civil War. A Corner in Wheat for its great metaphorical image of the comeuppance of the greedy. Where I didn’t have documentary footage, I would rely on Hollywood films and its re-enactments. If I went to newsreels, I still needed uncanny, poetically resonant images; it wasn’t enough to just recite the information and checklists. With the Zapruder film section, I found the demonstrations and the diagrams and images of the 8mm camera, film, labeled leader and the coldly numbered frames more symbolically moving than just showing the events of Dealy Plaza, etc. It points to the ephemerality of what that moment in history was, and that this great accidental amateur recording became the most famous film in history.
My primary goal throughout was to create indelible images, images that you could take home with you, and I’m not certain of exactly what that means except I know it when I see it, as they say. I heard a commercial for Doritos recently that described them as being “comletely surprising, yet somehow inevitable!” Well, that’s precisely what I’m after! I wanted to tap into our collective unconscious stream of emblematic images for my chemical transformations, and that’s where the Hollywood collective dream factory comes in handy. But it feels more like the memories of paintings than dreams. A temporal, populist mural, a Diego Rivera moving in time.
Rail: I was thinking of paintings because of not only the knowledge of the Niagara painting, which I knew was an inspiration, but even this sort of texture, or this sort of graven image. This image that sort of impresses itself on, or comes out at you in a way. It has a depth to it.
Solomon: It’s almost sculptural. It literally has depth. The chemistry is caked on top of the film surface, and I’m lighting it with the optical printer to enhance the bas relief and the three-dimensional surface. So, it looks like gold leaf at times. The depth is palpable—haptic, as they say, the sense of touch. And when it’s that big, and the textural details have remained, the painterly aspects of this piece are amplified. And that’s what I’ve learned by doing it as a huge, outsized mural, essentially: you’re able to contemplate it and behold it, especially because it’s presented in the dark, without other distractions.
Rail: I also wanted to talk about “EMPIRE.” I assume you were working on them at more or less the same time?
Solomon: That’s right. In fact, early versions of both pieces were shown at the Wexner in 2008. At the Wexner, we let the PlayStation 3 run constantly in real time over the course of two weeks, thanks to the curator, Chris Stults, who committed his own player and monitor. I literally phoned it in, and he set it up according to my exact specifications. We also showed an interesting, if much more elliptical early sketch version of American Falls as a small installation on a plasma screen.
Rail: We’ve talked about the idea of film as evidence in the Zapruder film, and it had me thinking of Warhol’s work. He wasn’t trying to do direct cinema per se, but his film is a kind of document of a moment in time, an act of just simply looking at the Empire State Building, and it struck me actually that game space is similar to the idea of the long take, in a way, in that it offers the spectator an agency in simply looking around the frame.
Solomon: Bazin gone wild!
Rail: Exactly. Or even the Wellesian long take. There’s a similar desire for interactivity, even if it’s still offered to you in a very circumscribed way.
Solomon: That’s right. It’s very much like the basic trope of narrative filmmaking in the sense that the camera and the camera movements are literally attached to the actor, the avatar, and trail them like puppy dogs. As the avatar moves through space, the camera effortlessly glides with it and stays attached. So I loved finding these so-called ‘sandbox games’ because I could just drive around and roam freely and just look around without having to kill anyone or go to work and do missions. As soon as I entered those worlds, I was so charmed and amazed because I was able to jump right in and wander around and inspect the world as I found it.  I was stunned by the level of unnecessary detail and even beauty, particularly in the landscapes. And as I got to know the map and the particular spaces, in memory they felt in the mind just like real spaces. I knew that if I go around this building and then I go around this building that I’m going to arrive at this place, even though the place is quickly making itself up and appearing just as I’m moving. I don’t remember exactly how I started, but I think it was by going out to the countryside, away from the urban warfare and bothersome people muttering to me. I noticed that the trees were swaying or that the grass was blowing, and the filmmaker in me immediately wanted to start taking images of these details that are usually ignored in all the designated mayhem. The main problem was getting rid of the avatar in the frame—I just wanted to have a camera and photograph and compose the non-narrative details of these various landscapes. With some games, you had to be in a vehicle to get a POV, and with others I had to find workarounds. And then of course I noticed the light was changing as the day wore on; the light changed, and I said, ‘That’s pretty beautiful.’ I would just stare and record several minutes to see how the light shifted over the course of the game’s version of hours.
And as I’ve said publicly, I’m a person who has trouble shooting in the real world. Physically, I have some limitations of where I can easily go these days, and as I get older, working with bulky cameras has become heavy and clumsy. Socially, I’m ordinarily very self-conscious when I’m shooting out in the world. I don’t like to be talked to or looked at when I’m shooting; I’d prefer to be invisible. Yet, I could never contrive things before the camera, like directing an actor or actress to pretend to do something. I simply would never believe it, and it’s important for me to believe what I do, to believe in the image as having some kind of poetic and essential truth. But in the game world, I liked having the avatars perform minimal Robert Wilson-like gestures or mostly just stand there, existentially posing in the frame. For someone like me, working with these sandbox games became so liberating. I also find that the lack of verisimilitude—these swaying trees so want to be real—to be a bit sad but also quite artistically poignant and surprisingly moving if I compose the shot just so.
With “EMPIRE,” of course, the idea of doing a Warhol re-make, even as a conceptual joke, came to me even before the game came out, because I had seen images of “Liberty City” for GTA IV online and knew the Empire State Building would be in there. But I was amazed when I actually put aside the controller for 48 minutes to see what would happen. Somebody at Views asked me the other night about the particular geography and the vantage point. I did a great deal of location scouting first. I stole a helicopter [Laughs.] and then tried a few building rooftops that had a vantage point of the Rotterdam Tower, which is what they called the Empire State Building. Most buildings weren’t tall enough to get the big picture vantage point that I wanted. I wasn’t that concerned with precisely imitating Warhol’s composition. I wanted this piece to have its own compositional integrity, based on the light of cosmic events like day moving into night, and I love that they simply eliminated New Jersey and afforded me a view of lower Manhattan with an endless vista of ocean behind it. But the one building I found that worked had all kinds of dangerous scaffolding on the rooftop, and I repeatedly kept dying trying to land the copter or jump out without either leaping to my death down to the streets below or having the crashed copter land on top of me! Well now, this was certainly a new kind of problem for me to have in my filmmaking—something they never taught me in film school! Ultimately, I performed and recorded over 40 takes of 48 minutes each before I had what I considered to be the final take.
Rail: You made your own game within the game. You ignored the game that they wanted you to play and made a better one.
Solomon: For my trilogy In Memoriam, whenever I needed a tracking shot, I would grab a bat that was intended for murder and used it instead to smash out the headlights of my car camera, and then I moved my thumb on the controller ever so gingerly in order to get a smooth tracking shot—and if I just jerked it a little bit, the entire take was blown. Ultimately, with take after take and all these issues of live performance involved, it took as much work as my films do. It wasn’t an easy thing—it took hours and hours of gameplay to get usable footage. With "EMPIRE”, I could begin by cheating a storm at the start of the piece, hoping for a lightning strike or two, but once I set it in motion, I could only stand back and watch the full take to see how it played out. I wanted the metaphor of the storm, some kind of a foreboding mood—I’m often drawn to bad weather in my films. So in the new 2012 version, which has the very best take of all, the lightning hits right away, then we see beautiful raindrops fall onto the camera lens, which is really the avatar’s cycle helmet, making multiple impressionistic blurs on the cityscape before it gradually clears up, and I swear it feels at that moment like the moistened air after a storm. Little by little, the sun creeps down, creating a dance of light on the waters as we head into dusk. We’re looking at the ocean beyond, the end of the country, and there’s no World Trade Center in sight—just like in Warhol’s 1964 take. And on the horizon line at dusk, this beautiful border of light emerges—what is it called? The green event?
Rail: The green ray.
Solomon: The green ray. Exactly. I’m reminded of that transcendent ending in Rohmer’s film. The sunset at one point looks like a nuclear explosion. And then a sliver of the moon comes out, and I chose to use a take when the moon loop would completely change phase during the middle of the night, back to full when it re-appears. That seemed to be a significant event for me somehow, for its metaphorical implications and its quiet sense of surprise. I had to wait through the equivalent of two weeks of GTA time in order to capture that change of phase when I performed it again recently. I did over 40 takes of “EMPIRE,” but this most recent 2012 take was the only time that I ever got it to rain again when the clock comes full circle. And so, as it’s approaching 3 o’clock p.m., which is when I started recording, I’m watching apprehensively as I’m recording it, and as it gradually started to rain again, and I said to myself, “Oh please, this will be the perfect ending!”—and indeed it was. It’s exactly 48 minutes long to the frame, which is exactly 24 hours GTA time. So there it is, the first structural film I ever made.

Free first page

[Written for a gallery guide produced on the occassion of an installation at the Wexner Center for the Arts from September 26-October 1, 2008. Also exhibited was a preview version of Solomon’s American Falls. A month-long three program retrospective in the Wexner Center's cinema followed the exhibition. These notes are available in pdf form here]
“EMPIRE” (Phil Solomon, 2008)
Just as the rise and fall of an imagined city (and, by extension, civilization itself) is chronicled in Thomas Cole’s series of five paintings called The Course of Empire, the rise and fall of various movements of art, film, and technology can be tracked through the course of “remakes” of Andy Warhol’s Empire. Artists have used Warhol’s 8 and a half hour monument as the locus of issues of appropriation (Sturtevant’s 1972 Warhol Empire State and Douglas Gordon’s 1998 Bootleg (Empire)); have updated it to new modes of filmmaking (Amos Poe’s 2008 “sequel” Empire II thrusts the Empire State Building into the MTV era); or relocated Warhol’s unblinking gaze to other geographical locations (Bernadette Corporation, Claire Fontaine, and Reena Spaulding’s 2006 Imperio, among others).
Phil Solomon’s “EMPIRE” ushers Warhol’s conceptual classic into the age of computer graphics. Solomon’s digital readymade is a static shot from the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV of the Liberty City (née Manhattan) skyline in perpetuity. The Empire State Building is centrally framed, but is placed back into its context within a larger metropolis. Warhol exclaimed during the filming of Empire that “the Empire State Building is a star,” but in Solomon’s version the building becomes a character actor. Instead of Warhol’s myth-making low angle camera setup, Solomon frames his Empire State landscape from above, with a wide-angle lens (although there’s no such thing as a lens in a videogame) that warps to situate what Louis Sullivan called the “vertical modernism” within the surrounding natural environment of rivers and skies. The result is a city symphony as composed by John Cage or the Lumières.
As much as “EMPIRE” deals with Warhol and the city, it also is a contemplation of Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA). The activities proscribed by the narrative in the perennially controversial game rarely rise about ground level thuggery, primarily car jacking and other random acts of violence, and seldom encourage anything resembling contemplation. But modern videogame teleology has advanced to a place where the player is granted something resembling free will. So instead of eluding cops over petty crimes, Solomon eludes the societal demands of the game altogether and finds a perch in the clouds. From this macro vantage point, it’s possible to witness the unseen cosmic structures that govern the activities below. The effect is similar to the legendary class that James Benning occasionally teaches called “Looking & Listening.” Benning takes his students out into a real world location and has them “practice paying attention.” On the ground, the GTA environment seems to consist solely of cement, neon, and lead, but “EMPIRE” shows us Rothko-like skies, cyclical moons, shimmering bodies of water, and other dazzlingly beautiful phenomenon that are otherwise invisible.
One key difference between Solomon’s installation and other Empire protégés is that, while the work is as conceptually rigorous as the others, it’s actually a joy to watch. No work that has come after Warhol’s has been able to maintain that balance of existing somewhere between a film, a painting, and a photograph. And Solomon wisely skirts the purely formalist approach that Warhol exhausted with his thrillingly exhaustive film. (Solomon also inverts the attenuated passing of time in Warhol’s film.) “EMPIRE” is not to be mistaken for a minimalist work. While it leaves the “action” of GTA far below, there are a dazzling number of events that occur continually that create a sensation somewhere between meditation and entertainment. Whether it’s shifting color gradations or subtleties of lighting or the expressionist blurs of rain on “lens” or debris wafting in the path of airplane flight patterns, there is always something to hold the eye while awakening the mind. “EMPIRE” celebrates and subverts the basic operating systems of the game so much that a revision of the game’s title seems in order. Let’s call it Grand Zen Auto.
In his film and video work, Phil Solomon is one of the foremost masters of the cinematic elegy and “EMPIRE” fits squarely into that body of work. As beautiful and expressive as the high resolution imagery is, it still functions as lament for the death of celluloid. The world on this screen wants so badly to be real, but it never will be. The sharp perfection of the images adds a funereal air to the proceedings that is enhanced by the depopulated landscape, which leads to the other elegy contained within “EMPIRE”. Warhol – always simultaneously astute and simple – surely intended his title to conjure thoughts about meanings of the word “empire” beyond the literal building. Solomon takes up this idea to reflect on the current state of the American empire, creating an elegant diptych with American Falls, also on view in this exhibition. It’s telling that both Warhol’s and Solomon’s Empire State Buildings exist in a skyline without the World Trade Center. As Warhol’s film was created in a time of expansion, Solomon’s video shows a time of contraction. While watching “EMPIRE”, ask yourself, “just what are those piece of debris floating in the air, anyway?”

View From the Falls

Collective memory and experience in the work of Phil Solomon
by Genevieve Yue  

Phil Solomon's monumental three-projector installation American Falls, commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., is being presented at the Museum of the Moving Image through November 25, 2012. The large-scale work takes up the Museum's entire third-floor Changing Exhibitions Gallery. Film historian Tom Gunning wrote of the installation, in its current form at Moving Image, "truly a masterwork. No one should miss this." Phil Solomon will be present at the Museum on Wednesday, October 3, for an opening reception and a screening of selected films and video work. This article was written by Genevieve Yu for the premiere at the Corcoran in 2010.
Until recently, Phil Solomon seemed to be one of the unlikeliest proponents of digital filmmaking. Profoundly influenced by his mentor and later collaborator, the legendary Stan Brakhage, Solomon has been chiefly concerned throughout his 30-year career with the physical properties of celluloid, which he boils, burns, and otherwise submits to closely guarded secrets of alchemical manipulation. Yet unlike those who have begrudgingly transitioned into the world of HD cameras and Final Cut Pro, most often for financial reasons, Solomon over the past decade has radically embraced the digital, taking as his object the vast video-game landscape of Grand Theft Auto for his In Memoriam, Mark LaPore series of films. This shift to "experimental machinima," or the use of a game's preexisting architecture to construct a film, was surprising to many, not because the work was by such an esteemed veteran but because the films themselves were so bracingly vital.
Two current exhibitions in Washington, D.C., round out the scope of Solomon's career to date: the National Gallery of Art is running a retrospective series of his films and the Corcoran Gallery of Art has on view a site-specific commissioned installation, American Falls, which wraps around the museum's central rotunda. As these concurrent programs demonstrate, the line between film and art is becoming increasingly blurred as filmmakers like Martin Arnold and Apichatpong Weerasethakul move beyond the festival circuit or art-film theaters and onto the white walls of the gallery. Though such boundary-crossing has occurred before—notable instances include Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling's artist films of the 1920s, the solid light installations of Paul Sharits and Anthony McCall in the 1960s and 1970s, the experimental classics of Andy Warhol and Michael Snow, and the enduring presence of video and installation art—Solomon's recent turn to the gallery is remarkable for happening long after his reputation as an experimental filmmaker had been firmly established. The avant-garde film community has remained notoriously isolated from contemporary art, though in recent years a number of practitioners, particularly younger filmmakers like Michael Robinson and Ben Russell, have, like Solomon, embraced new materials and exhibition spaces, suggesting that this hermetic world may be opening up.
American Falls
American Falls
Solomon's own artistic concerns have opened up as well, moving from the intimate, small-scale explorations of his own life in his earlier work to grander cultural and historical subjects. The most recent work does not omit the personal, but weaves it through broader registers of collective memory and experience. The 2008 installation EMPIRE, for example, which forms the coda to In Memoriam, depicts the New York City skyline without the twin towers. In addition to being a profound experience of national grieving, this loss was also deeply personal for Solomon, as LaPore, the filmmaker friend to whom the series is dedicated, took his own life on September 11, 2005. American Falls is in many ways Solomon's most ambitious work, an immersive, six-channel installation that layers grand moments of promise and failure—the flight of Amelia Earhart, Tesla's experiments in electricity, the Second World War, the civil rights movement—but without compromising a sense of fragility and tenderness in the midst of its epic scope, the crashing sound and sweep of its waves.
The National Gallery's film retrospective, organized in three programs, surveys Solomon's work in a loose chronology, from the cracked and crystalline realms of the childhood-themed films of the "Lullabies" section, to the evocations of mortality painted in the somber metallic hues of "Nocturnes." Along with an HD, single-channel version of American Falls, In Memoriam screened first in the "Elegies" group, a digital selection that offered a fitting introduction to Solomon's themes of longing and loss, as well as his interest in stretching the possibilities of his chosen medium, whatever it may be. With celluloid, Solomon is known for laboring over the making and unmaking of his images, hand-processing a combination of found materials and his own footage so they bleed into each other, often appearing abstract but with moments that are dimly recognizable. The scenes Solomon shoots himself remain unlocatable, generic snippets of home movie footage whose specificities are erased in favor of a faint sense of cultural memory, as with the image of a family wading in shallow water in The Snowman (1995), the close-up silhouette of a girl's hand in Clepsydra (1992), and the lightly quavering sight of a man lying in a hospital bed in The Exquisite Hour (1994). Whether these scenes came directly from Solomon's camera is hardly the point; in his magician's hands, all of them commingle in some vaguely familiar elsewhere. This is Solomon's gift, making first-person films and then making them ours; through this act of communion he reminds us of our own wide-eyed experiences of wonder before a cinema screen. In The Secret Garden (1988), the distressed subtitles of a cinematic version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's tale indicate how all film—here with icy colors flecked and flickering like fire—houses a space of secrets to be uncovered by the viewer. Solomon's films follow the associative logic of dreams, in which the images we encounter in everyday life are rearranged into totemic forms suggesting meanings just out of reach.
The Exquisite Hour
The Exquisite Hour
Solomon works primarily with found or prerecorded footage, often using iconic figures from film history like the Golem in Psalm III: Night of the Meek (2002) or the bellowing wizard of Oz in The Secret Garden in combination with the textures of the mundane. The chemical distortions he enacts on these images, however, often render them indistinct and unrecognizable, save for the moments they emerge from their celluloid soup. For Solomon, process and decay are part of the cinematic image, which is intrinsically unstable and fleeting. As we frequently take for granted the transparency of the filmed image, these works, less recorded than wrought, demand that we examine their perishable nature by focusing our attention on what we can't see, or what isn't clear. And as film is so often tied to a notion of history, both on a national scale and a personal level, these chemical operations demonstrate the extent to which all histories, all stories, are to some extent opaque and unknowable.
With the video game as found object in In Memoriam, Solomon's practice takes an intriguing turn: no longer concerned with process in a physical sense, he's instead engaged in the free-roaming possibilities of the digital expanse. The first of the series, Crossroad (2005), was made with LaPore after an evening of play, two boyhood friends looking up "cheats" online to bypass Grand Theft Auto's rules and discovering their own surrealist adventures. After LaPore's death, Solomon went on to make three more films in honor of his fallen friend: Rehearsals for Retirement (2007), which, with its flying bicycles and sequences of treading water, makes vivid use of the physics-bending codes; Last Days in a Lonely Place (2007), a desolate, burned-out noir city shot in black and white; and Still Raining, Still Dreaming (2009), a study in the passage of light across the streets of a digitally rendered New York, made in the contemplative ethnographic style of LaPore. With each film, Solomon delights in the freedom the game gives him to move through and to shape space. As one who has suffered from illness, he noted in the Q&A to "Elegies": "I struggle with the limitations of my body." Released from the constraints of his own method of working through film, he finds in these machinima a liberating sense of play, and there he transposes his characteristic baroque lyricism to a perspective without a body, a gaze untethered. Yet In Memoriam remains entirely recognizable as a Solomon work: with echoes of Phil Ochs's melancholy lyrics or the deep shadows that creep over a Chinatown storefront, we find wisps of grief and longing in a landscape that might seem familiar, but is one we've never seen before.
Still Raining, Still Dreaming
Still Raining, Still Dreaming
Like the bubbled metallurgic surface of Psalm II: Walking Distance (1999), American Falls is cast in shades of gold and umber, its images sometimes cracked and blistered like a hard-baked Death Valley floor, or violently bursting forth and pouring into each other like lava. The geological analogies aren't incidental: this view of the falls, or of "America's fallen," as Solomon puts it, presents the nation as if everything had been destroyed a long time ago, flooded over and buried, and finally excavated in its glorious ruin, its spotted molds. The chemical decay doesn't only express the distance of time; as it constantly evolves into new forms, it reminds us of the mutability of all images, how they're unfixed and ungraspable like the pictures that make up our memories.
American Falls is staggering in size and scope, with its enormous HD projections and surround sound (the mix was composed by Wrick Wolff) arranged in a panorama around the Corcoran's rotunda. Over the course of a 55-minute loop, it catalogs devastating examples of tragedy that are, for Solomon, specifically American: the vertiginous rises and catastrophic plunges of Lincoln's presidency, oil speculation, the sinking of the Titanic, the Depression, the atomic bomb, wars, assassination, and broken promises. Unlike the footage used in Psalm II: Walking Distance, the scenes here are instantly recognizable, though noticeably distressed. The piece ends with the submerged voice of Marian Anderson singing "Deep River," marking the era of civil rights agitation and the cataclysmic end, felt by many including Solomon, that arrived with 1968. Yet one of the final images recalls a more contemporary moment: the lights from the twin towers blinking in the night sky behind the Statue of Liberty. Conceived in 1999 and realized over the course of the following decade, American Falls may reflect a different era of national history than the one it directly depicts, from the darkened eve of the Bush presidency to the inauguration of Obama, whose White House stands only two blocks from the Corcoran. Unlike the indictment that Ken Jacobs's Star Spangled To Death makes of 20th-century American popular culture and politics, American Falls ends on a note of tenuous brightness, a glimmer of the hope that was seemingly extinguished 40 years ago.
American Falls
American Falls
What saves American Falls from overt didacticism is its curious blend of archival footage and well-known movie clips: Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock in Safety Last, the hypnotic swirls of Edison's Serpentine Dance, King Kong's last stand atop the Empire State Building, and the solemn soldiers returning home in Busby Berkeley's "Remember My Forgotten Man." In a nod to the Eadweard Muybridge exhibition in the Corcoran's adjacent gallery, the installation animates a number of the proto-cinematic pioneer's studies in motion, underscoring the work's indebtedness to the medium as a whole. For as much as American Falls is about America, it is also about cinema. This is its most compelling argument: that the image of America is inextricably tied to its films, and that America, moreover, exists predominantly on or through film, as much something documented in hard fact as constructed through fiction and fantasy. Some of the earliest films shot in the United States were of Niagara Falls, and with this piece, Solomon renews the connection between nation and image, history and film.
American Falls was inspired by Frederic Edwin Church's Niagara (1857), one of the Corcoran's most treasured landscape paintings. From Church's perspective, the painter seems to be hovering right over the falls, surveying the distant farmhouses on the calm riverbanks above while describing the turbulent waters below. It captures something like a photographic instant, rainbow prisms suddenly appearing in the mists surrounding the falls. Like Niagara, American Falls is a work of stunning imagination and detail. It's also an enveloping view that sees far and wide, to the edge and the end of disaster, an elegy for the fallen but also a celebration of those who, like Anne Edson Taylor, the turn of the century's "Queen of the Mist," braved the plunge and survived. 

Phil Solomon

"Like so many filmmakers of his generation (like Alan Berliner, he studied film-making at the State University of New York at Binghamton in the early 1970s), Phil Solomon has been most interested in recycling films made by others into new works that are distinctly his own. While many filmmakers use recycled cinema as a means for satirizing dimensions of American culture or of mod-ern life in general, Solomon’s approach was, from the beginning, simultaneously lyrical and elegiac. As a student at SUNY-Binghamton, he studied with Ken Jacobs, whose Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son (1969, revised in 1971), which uses rephotography to recycle the 1905 Biograph one-reeler of the same name into a complex and remarkable feature, became an inspiration. Solomon’s films are usually evocations of loss—of love, of time, of security, of life—that sing the beauty of what is gone by means of rhythmic and textural evocations closer to music and poetry than to most film.
   Since leaving the Massachusetts College of  Art in 1980 with an MFA, Solomon has explored the literal substance of film imagery with the optical printer, learning to tease emotional resonance frame by frame from the found materials he works on by means of a wide variety of optical and chemical manipulations. The resulting films can easily be read as elegies for the lives originally encoded on the celluloid, and for cinema itself. 'Remains to Be Seen' (Super-8mm version, 1989; 16mm version, 1994) and 'The Exquisite Hour' (Super-8mm version, 1989; 16mm version, 1994) are particularly good examples. Both films present a series of visually ambiguous but texturally astonishing sequences in which imagery is just barely identifiable.  Often, we know basically what we’re looking at—a person riding a bicycle, a landscape, a merry-go-round—but can no longer identify its original context. By means of suggestive sound and editing, however, Solomon invests this disparate imagery with a particular emotional tonality.
   In 'Remains to Be Seen', the most pervasive metaphor is of a person in an operating room: the sights and sounds of the operating room are motifs that suggest the precariousness both of  the person being operated on and, by implication, of  the film image and Cinema itself: it “remains to be seen” how long “the patient” will survive. In 'The Exquisite Hour', the statement on the sound track by an old man struggling to come to terms with the loss of his partner (“I’ll never get over it, never”) serves as the (broken) heart of the film, which evokes a variety of forms of cinema—early cinema, home movies, depictions of nature—all of which, like the medium itself, seem to be slipping away, despite what the loss means to us.
   Solomon’s films are unusually open to interpretation; they are less about creating particular meanings than about providing evocative experiences that reward the eye and invite emotional engagement. They are aimed not so much at audiences as at the solitary viewer in an audience who can feel the filmmaker’s commitment to the slow, solitary process that produces these films. At times, Solomon has collaborated with other filmmakers—with Stan Brakhage on 'Elementary Phrases'(1994), 'Concrescence' (1996), 'Alternating Currents'(1999), and 'Seasons' (2002); with Ken Jacobs on 'Bi-temporal Vision: The Sea' (1995)—but his most impressive and memorable films are solitary enterprises, especially 'The Secret Garden' (1988), 'Remains to Be Seen', 'The Exquisite Hour', 'Clepsydra' (1992), and the series of  'Twilight Psalms' he has made since 1999:  'Walking Distance' (1999), 'Night of  the Meek' (2002), and 'The Lateness of the Hour' (2003). "
(Scott MacDonald in A Critical Cinema 5)
"Solomon has worked in video before, but the works that established his reputation--as both an image alchemist and a master conjurer of plangent, all-enveloping moods--are so intimately bound to the specific properties of celluloid and emulsion that the shock upon seeing these new works cannot be overstated. While many established experimental filmmakers have turned to digital imagemaking in recent years, for any number of reasons, too few have been willing to dive headlong into the specific, often strange aesthetic character of their adopted medium. But 'Untitled' and 'Rehearsals' are so thoroughly immersed in the texture and atmosphere of digital gaming that I wasn’t initially certain how to access them. Unlike Solomon’s previous films, works that engaged in abstraction but were nevertheless tied to the concrete indexical character of photography, these new pieces explore the possibilities of a very dark, very foreign world." (Michael Sicinski)
 Night Light (1975)
The Passage of the Bride (1978)
As If We (1980)
Nocturne (1980)
What’s Out Tonight Is Lost (1983)
The Secret Garden (1988)
The Exquisite Hour (1989)
Remains to Be Seen (1989)
Rocket Boy vs. Brakhage (1989)
Clepsydra (1992)
Elementary Phrases (co-made with Stan Brakhage) (1994)
The Exquisite Hour (1994)
Remains to Be Seen (1994)
The Snowman (1995)
Concrescence (co-made with Stan Brakhage) (1996)
Alternating Currents (co-made with Stan Brakhage) (1999)
Twilight Psalm II: Walking Distance (1999)
Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes (1999)
Innocence and Despair (2001)
Seasons . . . (co-made with Stan Brakhage) (2002)
Twilight Psalm III: Night of the Meek (2002)
Twilight Psalm I: The Lateness of the Hour (2003)
Crossroad (co-made with Mark LaPore) (2005)
Rehearsals for Retirement (2007)
Last Days in a Lonely Place (2008)
Still Raining, Still Dreaming (2009)
American Falls (2010)
Empire (2012)
 by Michael Sicinski
Last Days in a Lonely Place review by Michael Sicinski
American Falls review by Michael Sicinski
Towards a Minor Cinema by Tom Gunning
Poetry in Motion by Tony Pipolo
by Rebecca Laurence
Invisible Cities by Genevieve Yue

View From the Falls by Genevieve Yue
Solomonic Judgements by David Bordwell

Reflections On the Avant-Garde Experience: 
A Meditation on Phil Solomon's The Secret Garden
by Dana Anderson (from Millennium Film Journal 39/40):

Found Footage, On Location: Phil Solomon's Last Days in a Lonely Place
by Gregg Biermann & Sarah Markgraf (from Millenium Film Journal 52):

"The first is Phil Solomon, who in the process of working with photographed imagery a frame at a time, not painting but using chemicals to crystallize into various shapes minute patters along the line of his step-printing, has, like Gunvor Nelson, also created a counterbalance to what could become sentimental and nostalgic" (Stan Brakhage)

 "Solomon has evolved his technique so that in his latest work ('Clepsydra' - 'waterclock') the textures are constantly changing and are often appropriate to each figure in metaphoric interplay with each figure's gestural (symbolic) movement. He has, thus, created consonance with thought as destroyer/creator - a Kali-like aesthetic 'There is a light at the end of the tunnel' (Romantic); and it is a train coming straight at us: ... (and, to balance such, perhaps, with a touch of Zen) ... it is beautiful!" (Stan Brakhage)
A Remembrance for Stan Brakhage:

”But now you have meta-ironies piling atop each other, ad-infinitum. Enough. The most difficult challenge for young artists today is to achieve any kind of earned sincerity or a true sense of the authentic in this horribly cynical, maddening time of multi-layered facades, remakes, and ever present duplicity on a global scale. And what do we call the Grand Canyon when kids refer to their lunch as 'awesome'”? (Phil Solomon)

(and of course, still going strong; this post will be updated accordingly...)

An Artist Who Inspires New Ways of Seeing

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 17 - Like much of the work gathered under the rubric of avant-garde cinema, the films of Phil Solomon deserve a larger audience than even the enthusiastic crowd that welcomed them at Redcat (the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) on Nov. 14 in downtown Los Angeles. Etched in black and vivid color and infused with melancholy, Mr. Solomon's stunningly beautiful films have an emotional power that might well attract more viewers, if not for the maddening divisions that find a few rarefied films classified (read: ghettoized) as art, while the vast majority are relegated to the commercial trough.

U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive
A scene from Phil Solomon's 2002 film "Psalm III: Night of the Meek."

U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive The filmmaker Phil Solomon.
With some 160 souls in rapt attendance, the Redcat audience was gratifyingly robust, especially for a city as in thrall to the movie industry as this one. In his recent book, "The Most Typical Avant-Garde," the film theorist and historian David E. James argues that Los Angeles has long been the actual center of avant-garde cinema in this country, and certainly invaluable venues like Redcat help make the point that both homegrown and visiting artists are always welcome here.
As if to cement Mr. James's provocative thesis, the Film and Television Archive of the University of California, Los Angeles, will present a separate program of Mr. Solomon's work on Nov. 18, with the filmmaker again serving as the evening's genial guide.
A disciple of Stan Brakhage, with whom he occasionally collaborated while the two were colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Mr. Solomon has been making films for more than three decades. The earliest on view in both Los Angeles programs date from the 1980's and carry the trace of Brakhage's influence, even as they also assert their maker's aesthetic independence. The black-and-white silent short "Nocturne," from 1980, begins with a quavering line that slices across the frame like a searchlight, underscoring the two-dimensionality of the image. Like the first stroke of a painter's brush, this line is merely a beginning, however, and soon gives way to swirling grain, dancing lights and the human figures that crowd Mr. Solomon's work like fugitives.
As the title "Nocturne" suggests, the filmmaker has a thing for the night. Despite the dazzling, iris-pulsing flashes of white, the splashes of red and washes of dusky blue, his films tend to look very dark, at times close to pitch-black, as if Mr. Solomon had exposed only a small bit of image to the light, and then with great reluctance. This helps give much of the work in both programs a hushed, peaceful, almost sepulchral vibe that is by turns becalming and vaguely menacing. A sense of loss permeates these films, a mood accentuated by Mr. Solomon's fondness for silhouetted images of children and adults, who register as very alone even when clasping hands while skating.
In an early film like "Nocturne," the images are dark yet distinct and recognizable, while the later work in these programs tends to include increasingly obscured and abstracted imagery. In "Nocturne," Mr. Solomon seems to be urging us to look at those parts of the world that our eyes too often gloss over: the pinpricks of light bouncing on a dark body of water, rather than the water; the inky shadows cast by passers-by, not just the outlined human figures. By contrast, in later films, like "Psalm I: The Lateness of the Hour" and the magnificent "Psalm II: Walking Distance," both from 1999, forms and figures are even more obscured, shrouded under what alternately look like layers of molten metal and the delicate icy patterns that glaze winter windows. Here, both the visible world and the medium itself feel threatened, on the verge of extinction.
Using a combination of found footage and original 16-millimeter film, Mr. Solomon attains these mysterious visuals through an optical printer, a machine (part camera, part projector) used for rephotographing film. (Sound creeps into the films quietly and sporadically via drones, human harmonies and whirrs borrowed from the natural world.) Distinctly old-fashioned, optical printers make the most of the medium's plasticity, allowing filmmakers to add effects like dissolves and slow-motion movement, along with other, more pronounced manipulations. It is an intensely laborious process, one that speaks to the handcrafted integrity of Mr. Solomon's work as well as to its intensely personal quality. Although part of a long avant-garde tradition, Mr. Solomon makes films that look like no others I've seen. The conceit of the filmmaker as auteur has rarely been more appropriate or defensible.
The wow factor of Mr. Solomon's finest films can be as difficult to convey as the deep feeling they instill in the viewer. One of the pleasures of this sort of work is how it can loosen the grip that narrative traditionally has on the medium, inspiring different ways of seeing and feeling, a point wonderfully made at the Redcat program on Nov. 14, when daubs of color, undulating grain and perfectly considered edits inspired audience members to both hushed silence and reverential applause.
Created in the shadow of the mainstream, films like these underscore the stultifying sameness of most movies, an industrial uniformity that reminds me of a film project Bertolt Brecht conjured up while living here titled "Boy Meets Girl, So What." The liberating effect of Mr. Solomon's work suggests a rather different realm: Film Meets Vision, Rejoice!

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