Rude Awakening, according to Sonbert, is ‘about Western civilization and its work; activity ethic and the viability of performing functions and activities.’ Sonbert’s vivid colour palette enhances the ritualistic nature of each action observed. Set against this lush panorama, Sonbert subverts the expectation of classic cinematography with a liberal sprinkling of avant-garde techniques. The incorporation of the materiality of film, the treatment of light, and the use of a hand-held camera, all suggest the influence of Stan Brakhage. In the works of Brakhage, Sonbert saw the incorporation of the materiality of film, particularly in his work Mothlight, and the treatment of light and the use of a hand-held camera as a liberating device and means through which the filmmaker could express his subjective state of being.
Dedicated to the films of Warren Sonbert, Surface Noise is a masterfully edited work using footage Abigail Child has described as ‘outtakes of outtakes’ with an equally rich soundtrack created by Child with additional music by Zeena Parkins, Christian Marclay, Shelley Hirsch, and Jim Black. Surface Noise extends Sonbert’s investigation into the relationship between music and image, incorporating radically edited sound material that parallels in density and intensity her images.
Jeff Scher, who has made experimental films, trailers, advertising films and a narrative feature film (Prisoners of Inertia, 1989), is best known for his fecund creativity in the animation process. In Reasons to be Glad, thousands of hand drawings shown in succession create a Sonbert-like world of gesture and suggestion: a circus performer on a tightrope, a man splitting wood, a woman baking. Finally, in Scher's Warren, Sonbert’s protégé deftly turns the observational tables on his mentor in a simultaneously humorous and nostalgic fashion.
Warren Sonbert, USA 1976, 16 mm, colour, 36 min
Stan Brakhage. USA 1963, 16 mm, 1 min
Reasons to be Glad
Jeff Scher, USA 1980, 16 mm, 4 min
Abigail Child USA, 2000, 16 mm, 18 min
Jeff Scher, USA, 1991, 16 mm, 3 min