Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Travel Plans

A short 7-minute follow-up to Broken Specs by Ted Fendt — this one called Travel Plans. There are no travel plans, per se: the protagonist comes upon a Greyhound bus ticket (spoiler alert) on a sidewalk, which might have been shed by the psyche of a friend-of-a-friend who has previously discussed her own plans to keep on moving in her travel.

When the three convene (in what appears to be the same kitchen as in Broken Specs?), a rapport is not formed, but a miniature-train station becomes the real place where none will bond, and, of course, this platform calls to mind, as a cinephile in-joke, in the same way that Moullet would do it, Gorin's Routine Pleasures. Use what you have at hand.

The guy who'll eventually take off from the two other characters, for the sake of getting to his job at UPS, eventually winds up crashing at the house of an elder UPS'er. This older guy tells him him about "fake walls" and that they "had fun back then," and in one instance there were "Class-C explosives." You get the sense these are all the stories he has to share.

So that's it. An entire movie made out of something you can sum up, retell the entire thing, in one minute to friends who don't have time for the watching of it or much else. It's not binge-viewing after all, — it's only seven minutes. It's shot in Academy ratio, and on film. That, it seems to me, is one of the most important clues to what should be considered an enigmatic film, precisely because its telling is so simple. This isn't to touch upon the change of weather, the snowfall that blasts the protagonist after discovery of the Greyhound ticket. His destination, and presumable abandonment of his job, — these too are plot-points up in the air — dispensed with, really, by Fendt in the editing and conception of the picture.

Without being too modern, without being too postmodern, Fendt's picture shaves away at something that's been happening in the low-budget way. Where does Fendt go from here? Where does his protagonist go from here? These are the separator-questions that make Travel Plans such a wonderful artwork, and something no festival sidebar has yet decided to touch.

Travel Plans / Ted Fendt / 2013

Broken Specs

One of the best comic shorts (6 minutes) I've seen recently — Broken Specs by Ted Fendt, whom many people already know as the great translator of significant French texts by Godard, Straub, Moullet, Daney. It begins with shots like Caroline Champetier-era Godard, cuts to the credits the same way an '80s Godard might. Haddon Township, New Jersey. Smashed glasses. "Mike," the protagonist, eats NJ pizza with his family, his father with glasses pristine. Mike's fall into the pie. A (high-school? home-from-college?) party comes next. The comedy goes far and quick. It's a cross between the end of Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha and all of Rohmer's Paris vu par episode Place de l'Étoile.

I will never forget the refrigerator magnets of football-playing kids, something like the Facebook posts of a friend-from-when-I-was-young whom I recently reconnected with, whose life revolves precisely around the family, four kids, all ten or eight, — while some of us still suffer, barren, unattended, make the movies. Not that Fendt's in a category as pathetic, by any means, but it's a small glimpse of where a life fifteen years prior meets the improbabilities of this, the unbelievable now.

Broken Specs [2012]