One of the most widely praised American avant-garde films in recent years, James Benning’s 1977 feature is a laconic mosaic of single-shot sequences, each offering some sort of image/sound pun or paradox. At once a crypto-narrative with an abstract, peekaboo storyline and a fractured, painterly study of the American midwestern landscape, 11×14 points toward the creation of a new, non-literary but populist cinema. —IMDb
James Benning’s early films fused the “structuralist” investigations into sound-image relationships of filmmakers like Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton with an interest in narrative and a deep sensitivity to color, light, and landscape. He first grabbed the attention of the avant-garde film world with 8 1/2 × 11 and 11 × 14. Filmed in vivid color in the rural and urban landscapes of his native Midwest, these two films would provide the kernel for his further investigations into film form.
His films’ rigorous structures — often based on numerical systems — and exquisitely composed shots reflect his training as a mathematician, and their frequently autobiographical subject matter draws upon his working-class roots (a rare subject for avant-garde film) and his longtime commitment to political activism.
While his earliest films are mostly concerned with form and narrative, his work in the ‘80s began to introduce both personal subject matter and documentary elements, at the… read more