James Benning, one of the most fascinating figures in American independent cinema, makes his eagerly awaited entrance into the digital realm with absolutely stunning effect. Ruhr—which is also the first film Benning has shot entirely outside the United States—is a meditation on the notion of terra incognita. Faced with the unfamiliar landscape of Germany’s Ruhr Valley, the cradle of heavy industry in that country, and a new medium, he turns the film into a process of slow discovery. As Benning uses HD to continue his exploration of duration in seven masterfully composed shots, minute events and nuances of changing light suggest a complex balance between permanence and mutation in the Ruhr’s industrial landscapes, marked, not least, with the ubiquitous presence of immigrant labor. —redcat.org
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
TIFF 2010. Wavelengths Preview
"There's much to celebrate and highlight as Wavelengths reaches its decade of existence." That's Andréa Picard, film programmer for TIFF
All images captured from the (compressed) 3sat television broadcast of Ruhr, 3 November 2009. I 1. The Matenastraße Tunnel. A subterranean