The film has three parts: a comic static shot emphasizing the passage of time; a fast motion tour through a city with fractured German commentary; and a slow seascape with fish floating midscreen. In this last section phrases translated from the German commentary are printed over the image. —Hollis Frampton
Hollis Frampton (1936-1984) was an American avant-garde filmmaker, photographer, writer/theoretician, and a pioneer of digital art.
Frampton was born March 11, 1936 in Wooster Ohio. An only child, he was raised primarily by his maternal grandparents.
At the age of 15 he entered Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was accepted on full scholarship. At Andover, Frampton’s classmates and friends included the painter Frank Stella and sculptor Carl Andre. Widely read already as a youth, he had a reputation at Andover as a “young genius” but was also unpredictable: he failed to graduate from Andover, and thus forfeited a National Scholarship to Harvard University, when he failed his history course on a bet that he could pass the final exam without ever reading the textbook. Entering Western Reserve University in 1954, Frampton took a wide variety of classes( Latin, Greek, German, French, Russian, Sanskrit, Chinese, mathematics) but had no declared major. He recounts… read more
Frampton's first foray into "narrative" cinema isn't a conventional narrative of course, although its the first instance of dialogue in any of his films. It's essentially about a young German man (whose dialogue is not subtitled) who wants to make a film in three parts. SURFACE TENSION itself is in three parts, and culminates in a startling shot of a goldfish in a tank on a beach accompanied by Godardian titles.
A box set of 24 films made between 1966 and 1979 makes waves in 2012.
Also: The other Kurosawa, a forgotten “masterpiece” and the long, rather sad decline of Variety.