Monday, February 08, 2016


Colvinist Cinema

You can watch the film in its entirety (1 hour 12 minutes) for free here (obviously click and view in full-screen mode):


adjective sab·bat·i·cal \sə-ˈba-ti-kəl\

1: of or relating to a sabbatical year

2: of or relating to the sabbath (sabbatical laws)

In Brandon Colvin's Sabbatical [2014], Robert Longstreet plays Ben Hardin, a college literature professor who has taken leave from his institution to tend to his mother Elizabeth (Rebecca Koon) convalescing at the family home following a stroke. Hometown ex-girlfriends (Rhoda Griffis) and school peers (Thomas Jay Ryan) enter the scene answering requests for general aide, emotional companionship, and buttressing a deadbeat brother (Kentucker Audley) who has arrived not so much to help out as to prolong a period of drifting.

Colvin's film is a world that longs for the glance and the hewn. Heads bow at length, bodies present their backs to the camera, breath held: a visual hum with all suspense for outburst or eruption, irruption, defused, diffused, by the soft filtering by DP Aaron Granat of a light that acquires and imbues a holy or merciful tuck upon individuals troubled bodily in abstraction. Godard in Vivre sa vie on hens, Nana/Anna Karina, Bresson, etc.: "If you take off the outside, there remains the inside. If you pull back the inside, then you see the soul.”

Vivre sa vie, film en douze tableaux by Jean-Luc Godard, 1962:

Sabbatical addresses an entire tradition of pictorialism — in filmmaking (Robert Bresson, Charles Burnett [especially The Horse]), in painting (Andrew Wyeth, James McNeill Whistler). Thinking confronts the exterior and the interior world: what's now being termed augmented reality (coming down the road to us soon, via Meta, Magic Leap, HoloLens, Apple works-in-progress), a mixed reality.

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948:

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 by James McNeill Whistler, 1871:

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, ou le Vent souffle où il veut by Robert Bresson, 1956:

The Horse by Charles Burnett, 1973:

Colvin films thought and thought's interruption, concentration of thought and the breaking of concentration. Concentration manifest, hewn, in framing of image and the focus of the sound-recording: the scratch of Ben scrawling across an adolescent writing desk. Interruption from work, plans, projects for errands, chores: Ben's mother experiencing a stroke; Ben fixing a broken old TV set; his dropping mom off for church service; the arrival of Dylan/Kentucker, the useless sibling; their mother falling ill again. Each thought 'caught' in the shot, with each 1.37 frame a discrete unit, no camera movement.

A sequence of locked-frames, the flow of consciousness versus concerted impediment.

Like a spell intoned with gradual urgency, these sentences are spoken throughout the picture:

"Don't wake up." (Ben to Dylan, crashed on the recliner)

"Wake up." (hometown friend to Ben, crashed on his living room sofa)

"Wake up." (Ben to his mom in bed, unable to be roused)

Then, Ben (mentioning Robert Longstreet once more, as this is the best performance of his formidable career to date), at the end of the film: "Last time I was scared. Now it's not so bad."

An increasing urgency, gradually given over to dimming. This is the terrible, calm, and urgent beauty of Brandon Colvin's film.


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