I like what Bill Morrison does here more than I like how he does it... Distilling what’s compelling about images of a thing; then combining those units to try to express the essence of that thing; like words in a poem... I just don’t care for his poetry. Often I wished the music would just. please. stop. Still I’m drawn, found/archival footage fetishist to his flame. That stuff is it's own poetry. 2.5
Morrison constructs a sweeping portrait of communities (specifically Black people) displaced from their homes by the rising tides, using only cursory title cards to convey the historical. I've exhausted the topic so I won't mention his choice of music, and the leap to the advent of blues felt forced even if it does provide the most jubilant footage of the film. A remarkable document.
Did not care for Bill Frisell music at first but it became the perfect companion on a constructed journey of archival black and white footage from 1926-1927. Without narration your mind starts to create a story and bring up random associations. Three men in a boat reminds me of Jerome K. Jerome and then Connie Willis's novel To Say Nothing of the Dog. Flooded earthworks reminds me of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty.
While the Sears and Roebuck sequence is a modern art piece in itself with Frisells music in tow, the archive footage is in wondrous synchronicity to the hazards of the delta bloat and levee breaks, leaves human effort and folly afloat. My worry of eddy tree huggers and unsteady roof perched folk leaves fate to the unknown, while boyhood pole sitters watch gallant rescuers, the relieved assemble exhausted and poorer.
Covering a lost part of American history with a fresh and unique voice, the film shows great potential. It does not fall back on traditional storytelling methods that would have given the film melodrama or sentimentality. Instead it feels fresh with the narrative style it adopts. The real star of the film is the music though. The music is wonderful and helps transport you into the film, but blocks out the narrative.
Had a hypnotic melancholic quality I quite liked, not unlike listening to William Basinski's Disintegration Tapes. A few passages tried my patience, though, but I powered thru. Very nice Bill Frisell soundtrack, occasionally jazzy or bluesy or post-rock-ish. All in all, the effect was sad and lovely.
Jordan Hoffman wrote: "I don’t know if this is documentary or non-narrative experiment or a prolonged music video for people of peculiar taste. All I know is that it is...haunting and altogether human and important. " bodhishin wrote: "...an archival tone poem". Indeed. The film damage is gorgeous.
Thanks, MUBI, for showing this. I didn't mind the music (as some do). Nice film quality! Fascinating scenes. One thing I notice is that this is a time in America when people still did physical work, and ate real food. Thousands are shown, yet only a handful appear overweight, much less obese. God help us, come the rising waters.
It reads like an archival tone poem. The music of Frizell is hypnotic and often synchronous with the events of the film. Though the music is modern and not of the time, it creates a felt bridge to a different era. If a picture speaks a thousand words, than a moving film spoken only through music speaks a million or more.
An enticing assemblage of historical film. But, while Morrison's scores have always been keen, not the case here. Frisell is no doubt talented, but this is cliched, actually irritating "jazz." Post fusion here, bluesy there. People evacuating, sentimental. Rushing flood, happy snappy jazz hands. A severe case of music painting the picture, so overbearing it almost seems ironic. Bill, consider Tim Hecker next time. <3
FNC '13 Morrison takes a series of vintage silent images from the time period surrounding the Mississippi River flood of 1927 and matches them to a quite wonderful score by Bill Frisell. No dialogue and minimal on screen prompts just footage and music, and it works. An experience which would be elevated if the band was playing live in front of it.
Bill Morrison is exceedingly adept at taking found archival footage and editing it into compelling new films, and here he weaves a striking portrait of the Mississippi River Flood of 1927. The film is designed as a sensory experience rather than an educational one. And while the jazzy score often feels anachronistic, the ultimate effect of great art arising from great tragedy is a powerful one.