Monday, March 08, 2010

`More Curious to Me Than You Suppose'

Go here to watch a beautiful little film, “The Sandpit” by Sam O’Hare, devoted to a day in the life of New York City. It’s a “motion picture” consisting of more than 35,000 still photographs. O’Hare says he shot the film in five days and two evenings last August and that he was inspired by the tedious art-house favorite Koyaanisqatsi -- another case of the artist transcending the pretentious limitations of his conscious inspiration. To his credit, the soundtrack includes not a single repetitive note by Philip Glass.

I like the unsentimental everydayness of the scenes O’Hare chooses to depict – ferries and helicopters on the water front, heavy equipment at the title work site (which reminded me of Andrei Platonov’s The Foundation Pit), pedestrians and traffic, a baseball field. If there’s a suggestion of 9/11 in the film, it’s left admirably unstated. The first artist I thought of in connection with O’Hare’s film was Grant Wood, many of whose paintings share the aerial perspective O’Hare adopts. His scenes have a gentle pathos about them, like a meticulously rendered HO-scale cityscape – a sprawling urban scene shot in miniature. Other New York City artists come to mind – Edith Wharton, A.J. Liebling, Daniel Fuchs – but the spirit who hovers around O’Hare’s portrait of city life is Walt Whitman’s. Think of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”:

“On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me,
and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”

And think especially of “Song of Myself.” This passage is from section 8 of that poem:

“The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs,
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes…”

1 comment:

William A. Sigler said...

"The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes…"

Yes, that's the way I've been feeling lately -- excited but terrified to be moving to the City.

The film, discerning New York like a hawk, bends my emotions further, exposing the thin veneer behind the most seemingly solid reality--this city with all the treasure revealed as just a toy box for hyperactive children.

It might seem more real if overheard mingled with overhead, if the words from the wonderful web site Overheard in New York wafted up amid the (thankfully) non-Philip Glass soundtrack.

Whitman would be nice, of course, too, and in trying to raise his spirit I came upon this wonderful gift, a Whitman walking tour.

I hope you enjoy it as I did.