Benning’s latest work fits in perfectly with his extensive oeuvre of landscape films. In small roads, Benning films 47 roads in the USA. Not only expansive landscapes crossed by trains, but also narrow lanes where only an occasional animal or vehicle passes.
The ne plus ultra of road movies, small roads is precisely what its title indicates. James Benning claims his film is best described by making a list of the 47 roads in question and the cars that drive on them, which together denote a circular journey through America’s west and south over the seasons.
But let’s speak in grander terms: small roads is digital cinema as virtuoso landscape painting, depicting each two-lane blacktop from a central perspective, each 16:9 countryside highway glistening under the hot sun, shrouded in fog, or coated with a dusting of mid-winter snow. In its execution, small roads most resembles Benning’s final 16mm masterpiece RR, in that the action (or here, stasis) inside the frame determines the length of each shot; but with each shot being a careful, invisible digital composite, the suddenly prolific Benning is up to more than just ‘looking and listening’. –IFFR
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
Las rutas, figura clave del cine americano desde sus origines primigenios, son vistos desde la óptica de Benning como espacios de pura mitificación ontológica. Aunque no reconozcamos esos lugares, los sabemos mágicos porque el cine los ha recorrido con aterioridad. Ahora, a veces vacias y otras mas activas, los planos de las rutas no solo se expanden en su profundidad sino que tambien se extienden en nuestra memoria