"What the moving pictures need is a moving wind"
- D.W. Griffith, as quoted by Jean-Marie Straub and remembered by John Gianvito in his tribute
to Danièle Huillet.
Gianvito's recollection differs from the usual telling of Straub quoting Griffith (per Jonathan Rosenbaum: "What the moving pictures lack is the wind in the trees." [neither recalls Straub correctly citing Griffith; Straub's misquotes might offer windows into his own aesthetics]). Gianvito's version of this reference might tell us something of the nature of influence and agenda in Gianvito's new film, Profit motive and the whispering wind.
"A moving wind." Unseen, powerful, a secret keeper of great strength. Above all, a force. The wind exists on its own, an invisible force seen only in moments of its expression. This is not Griffith's belief in "the beauty of moving wind in the trees;" Gianvito offers the wind as an agent of power and righteousness (the breath of God in Genesis is a creative force; in Hebrew, this breath is ruah [רוּחַ]: spirit, breath, wind).
Profit motive and the whispering wind consists mostly of gravestones and monuments to the victims and heroes of certain struggles to create America. These struggles are both universal and ideological: battles for religious toleration and freedom, against slavery and oppression, for workers' rights. Interspersed with these shots are, on a few occasions, a few frames of animation that hint at the violence and exploitation of the capitalist mechanism. Also interspersed are shots of the wind in the trees - not faintly rustling, but as a force of movement and power. The wind seems a continuation of their struggle, at times reminiscent of ghosts [the spectres haunting America?].
Profit movie. The whispering wind. Two sides of America's struggles against itself. America is - was, continues to be - a battleground between two tendencies. One, the rule of might, the consolidation of power, the search for profit against all enemies. The other, the rule of principle, the fight for liberty, a search for justice against oppression.
"You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows"
- Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
The historical trajectory of Profit motive and the whispering wind offers a vision of continuity between past and present. The juxtaposition of gravestones and the wind links the past struggles with the wind's contemporary presence [Brecht:"Von diesen Städten wird bleiben: der durch sie hindurchging, der Wind!" (Of these cities will only remain what passed through them: the wind!)]. Gianvito eventually links this trajectory to contemporary activism in an explicit way, but the earlier evocation of long-past struggles not being long past is both a moving tribute to the lost heroes of the battle for America and a clarion call for action in the eternal present.
"Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing, through the graves the wind is blowing, freedom soon will come; then we'll come from the shadows."
- Leonard Cohen, "The Partisan"