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Tales of Urban Fascination, Selected Films V.2 cover photo

Tales of Urban Fascination, Selected Films V.2 2010

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Distributed by Microcinema International/Microcinema DVD, 2169 Folsom Street, Suite M101, San Francisco, CA 94110; 415-447-9750
Produced by Produced by Mark Street
Directed by Directed by Mark Street
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 03/10/2011

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Oksana Dykyj, Head, Visual Media Resources, Concordia University, Montreal

Tales of Urban Fascination is a collection of six experimental films created over a period of 10 years, from 2001 to 2010, that reveal a distinctive aspect of the urban experience. Filmmaker Mark Street’s work generally ranges from abstract hand-manipulated films employing found footage to feature-length improvised narratives or city symphonies.

Street is among an increasing group of contemporary artists who work with found film footage. Craig Baldwin (Tribulation 99), Bill Morrisson (Decasia) and Peter Delpeut (Lyrical Nitrate) are others who have repurposed found footage just like Bruce Conner and Joseph Cornell before them. With Trailer Trash (2008), Street rescues movie trailers found discarded outside a Brooklyn movie theater, and then scratches, paints and edits together images of these movie trailers found in the trash. The film begins with still images of the unspooled and manipulated film snippets, displaying the sprockets and essentially reducing the film to its formal element: frames assembled head to foot. The editing of the fragments together follows with an occasional freeze frame or slow motion emphasis on an image highlighting the heart of film: its collection of frames, each individual in their wear and tear with dirt particles and projector scratches abounding. The drama is secondary and produced by the viewer in terms of attempting to identify the film titles in question by identifying scenes or actors, like Tim Allen in one his Christmas comedies and then by weaving a sort of narrative from the edited fragments.

With the 15-minute Collision of Parts (2010), Street assembles disparate city images from New York to other cities in South America and Asia. Images collide with incongruous sound and form a kind of cacophony that becomes more and more uniform with the insertion of scratched and painted leader as perhaps a nod to the work that animator Norman McLaren produced at the National Film Board of Canada in the 1940s. Shot in Montevideo, Uruguay, Sueldo/Licensia (Salary/Leave) (2010) is an adaptation of two Mario Benedetti poems about the working man.

In the 3-minute Brooklyn Promenade, shot a week after the fall of the Twin Towers in New York, Mark Street’s two children speak about the devastation on 9/11 and their understanding of what occurred right after the tragedy. The background images suggest the Lower Manhattan area as seen from Brooklyn and the children’s thoughts and understanding of the events create another powerful layer and perspective to view the horrific event.

The earliest film in this compilation is Happy? (2000), and it was shot during the last summer of the previous millennium. Images of various areas of New York are intercut with on-the-street interviews with people going about their lives, or their work. They are asked whether they are happy and what will happen when the year changes to 2000. Their answers form an incisive snapshot of urban life and thinking at the end of the 1990s. A Year (2006) is Street’s autobiographical video diary musing on middle-age, family ties and urban life and work.

The DVD also contains a bonus 8-minute documentary shot in part by Street’s wife Lynne Sachs of a workshop he taught at the Fundacion d’Arte Conteporaneo, an artists’ collective in Montevideo. The participants learn how to manipulate found footage by coloring, scratching, cutting and piecing together and reshooting on video their film assemblages.

This second volume of Street’s work ends up being symbolic of the current preoccupation with the death of film. Street muses about it in his autobiographical video and has written about it in 2007: “But film is no longer the detritus of the culture, and using it is no longer considered reaction against planned obsolescence. Film is the old grandfather in the corner who is demented and senile and repeats himself over and over again. It’s not underground, hip, indie or pure. It’s expensive and all but dead.” ( Yet, the vitality of his use of film is so life-affirming that it would appear that this art form will no doubt evolve and only disappear when Kodak shuts down operations. Highly recommended for film studies, cultural studies, and art.