Lynne Sachs: Disarming Drift

By Gren, J. Ronald | Millennium Film Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Lynne Sachs: Disarming Drift


Gren, J. Ronald, Millennium Film Journal


LYNNE SACHS: DISARMING DRIFT

I have found several of Lynne Sachs's films unusually disarming. Wind in Our Hair starts by just hanging out with four barely adolescent girls and seems to driftwith them to no evident purpose; one is tempted to say that the attention and impressionistic, closely shot fascination comes from a mother's affection that a general audience has little reason to feel. By the time a narrative event starts to shape the film, we sort of know these girls, or we start to feel that we are among them by way of the film's stylistic drifting. A nonincisive drifttransforms itself into a thickening bundle of barely perceptible but compelling discourses through which one finds oneself caring about the characters, not as individualized, biographical characters, but as female beings drifting toward a world that is itself drifting toward sexual and political fission, a fission that might be disastrous or revolutionary. The energy that would feed that fission is felt in the experimental music of Juana Molina that accompanies the transcendent avantgarde film poem of the end-credits-the drifting girls have suddenly exploded into articulate girl-power and woman music, just as the drifting Lynne Sachs-made film explodes into incisive experimental film. The stirring success of the music and of the film's coda suggest a positive future for these drifting girls, while the discourses woven finely into their lives during the entire film remain frighteningly daunting.

There is an analogously disarming feel in Driftand Bough, though it is a totally different kind of film with no character development at all. There I was disarmed by the unassuming succession of art-photo shots of snowy Central Park, shots that seemed pretty ordinary, but that again gently drifted toward a richer collection of elements, such as the graphic lines that did things like scale shifting. The lines of duck trails through the ice-pack-lines that "drew" a kind of benign insinuation into a cold world-seemed to help effect an insinuation into my affect. By the time that film ends, I have been drawn, partially consciously, into a meditative state that I wanted to resist at its beginning. The ending-with people moving about and with bicycle taxi and camera both drifting to the right-was a break in that mood, but it still maintains some of the meditative mood through the realization that a barely perceptible superimposition of nothing very distinguishable has occurred mysteriously for the first and only time in the film.

The disarming feeling in Sachs's films is especially strong in Your Day is My Night. Again the film starts by hanging out with some ordinary people, in this case Chinese immigrants in a confined space doing ordinary things. We gradually meet these people by name and hear them interact and tell stories. I won't try to develop how that works, but will just say that somehow this ordinariness changes into-not just the liking and caring about the characters that one can see in numerous effective documentary films such as Salesman and Fallen Champ and The Square and American Pictures, or in the ur-documentary Nanook, and even the surreal Act of Killing-the ordinariness in Sachs's film changes into something more than those films' liking of or sympathizing with characters, something more like loving those characters, though that seems a bit strong. …

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