Monday, September 26, 2011

NYFF 2011: Patience (After Sebald) :Walking the Rings of Saturn

For a moment, forget the film. If you ever get a chance to listen to director Grant Gee talk about his films and the things he loves, do so. He is a truly amazing speaker who gives you tons of information in response to the simplest of questions leaving you wanting to know more. Listening to him speak after the press screening of his film Patience (After Sebald) I wanted to dive back in and watch it all over again. Since Gee is coming to the festival it behooves you to get a ticket for the single screening of Patience on October 2 and see the film and listen to the man speak. (I would go but I'm going to be seeing Miss Bala which screens at the same time)

Coming out of a project to create art that is tied to a sense of place, Patience is a mediation on the book The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald. The book is the story of a walk that Sebald took through the English countryside. Its a meandering tale that isn't so much about the walk but about life in the last half of the 20th century.

The film, a response to the book, is a recreation of the walk (taken in the early 1990's) mixed with passages from the book, discussion of the book and the ideas it kicks up (including a discussion of Peter Greeenaway's Drowning By Numbers and Andre Tarkovsky's Stalker, not to mention history, philosophy and many other things). It's a heady mix that had some people snoozing and others heading for the exit.

I drifted in and out. It wasn't until toward the end of the film that things began to come together and by the time the film ended in a Oh Wow moment I was hooked and wanted to see it again because I suddenly realized what I was seeing.

Garret Gee described the film as kind of like taking a walk while listening to a great pod cast and some good music, where you occasionally take off your head phones to just sort of look around. I think it's an apt description since it wasn't until I began to see the film as a trip of sorts that it clicked for me.

This is an under 90 minute rambling trip through the landscape that WG Sebald created in his book. Its also a trip to the places that he sent the various admirers of the books.

How does someone relate to a piece of art they love? This film investigates it.

It was said that director Garret Gee makes movies based on what he finds on his fanboy shelf, and it shows. This is a film that was made by someone who loves a book very deeply.

I should probably stress a couple of things.

First the film can be nap inducing. I drifted off a couple of times, people around me were nodding at times. On the other hand it's like a very long walk where you sometime drift off and get bored by what you are seeing. It doesn't matter because in the end it pulls it together (wonderfully). It seemed to me that even the people who were drifting came around in the end.

Secondly the film will not tell you everything you want and or need to know about the book or Sebald. Far from it. The film is at best a starting place for investigation about the book and about the author. The film is really more essay then documentary, much like the book, it's less a document about the walk, but rather commentary about other things.

Lastly this is a very special film you really should see. It's a film that will touch you and move you and make you think. Its a film that takes you some place and shows you somethings that look familiar but in the end are revealed to be different then you thought. Its a film as a trip, a film that is somehow more than a film.

Will you like it?

I don't know, but on the other hand its film that certainly isn't going to be your typical (insert type of film) film. Its one of the few films I've seen recently where I can honestly say, if you want something different and potentially wonderful see this film. I don't think you'll waste your time (More so if you see it at the festival with the director in attendance)

(What's it like? kind of, sort of like the Robinson films of Patrick Keiller but crossed with Peter Greenaway...but different)

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