In American Dreams (1984), viewers are presented with items from the filmmaker’s collection of Hank Aaron memorabilia, one item at a time, seen front and back, organized in chronological order, year by year, while excerpts from the diary of Arthur Bremer scroll across the bottom of the screen from right to left—excerpts that describe the events leading up to the Milwaukee-born Bremer’s attempted assassination of Alabama governor George Wallace in 1972. The soundtrack alternates between sound bites from public speeches and snippets of popular songs, one from each year, beginning in 1954 and ending in 1976 (mirroring the years of Aaron’s career in the major leagues). From Benning’s deft collaging of these visual and aural elements emerges a profound meditation on aging, race, gender, popular culture, and political change during a volatile period of American history. —Scott MacDonald
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
The ultimate show and tell. Are sports has been a parallel line to all culture. We as americans have the ability to cross back and forth from the reality and the reality of sports it seems no matter what. This film is a one on one conversation with a place and time that will remain persistent as long as we have an America to speak of and of course as long as we have America will have our sports.
Kudos to the Austrian Film Museum for restoring and subsequently help in issuing this masterpiece on home video.
I found my attention constantly wandering from the images displayed to the scrolling text at the bottom and then the audio snippets in the background. Then you suddenly start to create your own narritive and context n your head, besides the one imposed. Nice stuff Benning, really nice stuff!