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New York Underground Film Festival Report: Paterson-Lodz, The Sky Song

New York Underground Film Festival Report: Paterson-Lodz, The Sky Song

It feels weird to review films that most people won’t be able to see anytime in the near future, but who knows: if Paterson-Lodz can receive limited distribution in the UK, then perhaps it can here, too. Not that you should hold your breath: Redmond Entwistle’s film installation is a work of fragments mocking and challenging completion. Speakers strategically placed throughout the theater create enveloping, alternating soundscapes of street noise (from both of the title cities) and interviews, the former coinciding with black film leader and the latter with “impressions of the ground from Paterson, New Jersey and Lodz in Poland cast into glass and then filmed against the sky as the light changes through their intricately detailed surface,” to quote the filmmaker. To quote further: “Each time the film is projected a computer selects new fragments of the histories and new sounds of the cities to play over the image. This is a history that goes backwards and forwards in time; that changes according to new sets of connections in the sound; in which beginning and end are unclear.” The lack of clarity is meant, I’m guessing, to place in focus the ongoing dialogue between the past and present — history as continual reevaluation, a Marxist understanding of social and cultural forces poetically fitting for a film whose central events are the 1905 revolution in Lodz and the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike.

My viewing of James FotopoulosThe Sky Song was unfortunately rendered fragmented due to scheduling conflicts that had me leaving the two-hour opus an hour early. But of what I saw — wow. Fotopoulos is by this point an underground legend based mostly on earlier 16mm work like Migrating Forms and Back Aganist the Wall, and the mere mention of his name in certain circles generates controversy. I’ve only seen roughly three or four films out of his insanely prolific body of work, so I’m not sure if I’m qualified to pass significant or even knowledgeable judgment, but I do know The Sky Song, like other Fotopoulos films and videos, is something I won’t soon forget. In short, it makes Inland Empire look like Apollo 13. Fotopoulos describes The Sky Song as “something to do with revenge (particularly in action films), American Indian tribes, goblin sharks and fragments of memories I had of the day the Chicago Cub lost the playoffs in 1984.” Baseball’s all over the NYUFF this year. But the video, which received its world premiere yesterday to an audience of roughly two, is notable largely for image-manipulated actors performing wooden script readings of a disturbed Western punctuated by psychosexual bloodlettings, primitive 3-D computer graphics of naked bodies and childlike drawings, and a series of flashed icons ranging from barnyard animals to an array of fruit. The word “nightmare” could describe The Sky Song, but not easily: it’s an indescribable experience, though mine was sadly truncated. If you somehow get the chance to see The Sky Song please outdo me.

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