Michael Snow - Sshtoorrty (2005)

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Script, Direction, Design, Sound, Editing, Michael Snow. Actors--Hilda Hashempour, Mac Ebrahimzadeh, Ramin Yazdi. Camera Luc Monpelier. Production Stephanie Markowitz, Jennifer Weiss. Translation, Mani Mazinani. Funding Assistance, The Canada Council

Writing about my films has sometimes discussed the 'narrative' aspect or 'reading' of some of my 'pictorial' nature, which is much more important. Reflecting on this, I realized that I have never wanted to make a purely narrative film, never had and therefore perhaps I should. Perhaps I should finally make a film that really tells a story. Thus 'SSHTOORRTY'.

This can be seen but can it be said? I wrote the script, designed the set, directed the shoot and supervised the sound-mix and edit. The staged action was shot beginning with a camera hold on the apartment's inner doors. A man arrives carrying a wrapped-up painting. He is greeted by a woman. He unwraps the painting, shows it to her. The camera follows them to a central position in the apartment. A dispute develops and the painter smashes the painting he's just brought over the head of the woman's husband. The camera follows the painter and the wife / lover back to the door. He exits, she walks away. There is dialogue, in Farsi, but there are subtitles in English.

The film of the above-described scene was cut exactly in half and the two halves of sound and picture as super-imposed. This makes a simultaneity of actions that occurred 'linearly'. Before and After become a Transparent Now Arrival and Departure are united. It's truly 'filmic', one transparent film over another.

It's a 'painting' about a painting. I was very concerned with the mobile color mixing that would eventually happen. Colors were carefully chosen as I tried to predict how they would mix and interact. I make 'pictures' and the experience of looking at them is more important than the 'elsewhereness' of a story, even in this, my most 'story-telling' film. In that respect, part of the perception or 'reading' of the film involves one's choices of what went before and what came after in the actual pre-filmic event. The use of Farsi and the over-laying of the English subtitles were ways of adding two other layers of complexity. The film was designed to be seen several times, not just once. In my 1974 four-and-a-half-hour film Rameau’s Nephew, I used many different languages. Ones hearing of an unfamiliar language tends the mind toward the ways in which one listens to music. Speech is then more purely sound than sense. Meaning doesn't cancel hearing. A modest political edge: adultery and drinking alcohol can be severely punished in Iran. Part of the original conception was that one could satisfyingly see / hear the episode-on-episode several times. Repeated viewing reduces the strength of the realism and makes it possible for one to see truly the artifact (or, the construct), the artificiality, the art. There are, literally, layers to it and I believe that each time one sees 'it' one sees it differently. One may concentrate for example, on the moving color-mixing, or what happen to the painting or the subtitles, or the way the speech and music are superimposed on each other. And as memory can be questioned, one may question ones memory as to whether each repeat is in fact the same. Were alterations made? The title is of course the word SHORT printed right on top of the word STORY.




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