Morrison's documentary with nary a word throughout captures the history of the Yukon's Dawson City and gold rush and stands testament to the power of silent film in defining film history and the need for preservation. A large number of silent films were discovered in Dawson City and eventually donated to the Canadian archives for restoration; but this is just the starting point to a wonderfully constructed doc.
History as we know it is nothing but a bunch of random sidenotes that somehow survived time. Sometimes these notes are quirky first person accounts, sometimes they are nitrate films. Most of the time, the facts are lost forever, but when something like this happens, it brings a lot of joy to my heart. I wish every city would have a documentary like this of their own. What a magical film.
The story of a Canadian mining town at the turn of the twentieth century is a humbling microcosm not just of film history but of the very idea of recorded human history. Illustrates how our concept of ‘the past’ is completely beholden to extant artifacts. Morrison’s aesthetic suits the story’s routine returns to the elements of earth and fire. If you can’t bury it in the earth, eventually you’ll lose it in the fire.
Doc Lisboa. Do I really have to consider big a movie that disregards its found footage with a permanently annoying and invasive music? In which any still it's shown with digital in and out zooms- disregarding Straub and Huillet's lesson in "Une Visite au Louvre"? With a supporting narrative as an unique possibility of inserting the found images? With image effects underlining the patina of time? No, that's my answer.
It's amazing how everything comes together as if it was a great epic movie, in which the "characters" intersect and change paths several times, affecting the historical route of the town and the sad fate of the hundreds of silent film reels, spread by various places, and that tell so many things about the reality of that time. A poetic experience of History, Sociology and, of course, Cinema.
Everything I love about Morrison films; in ecstatic synthesis. Eg embodied theoretical explorations of time, via the elegant formalism carrying the narrative (which itself is captivating, & turns on similar themes). Or embodied qualities of flicker & decay; hypnotic & visceral, eg via brilliant sound (itself calibrated to the decay) Unf! I didn't watch so much as commune w/ the film. Left elated. Deeply satisfying.
4.5 I went into this blindly, expecting another montage of found footage with score. What's delivered is somewhat of a breakthrough- a documentary in a more conventional sense, in that it conveys with text and photos- but Bill also often uses sequences from the unearthed archive to illustrate the historical narratives at hand. Fascinating, incredibly informative, and, as always, visually immersive; not to be missed.