Time after Time Puts Imagery Back in the Cinema
By T.S. Kerrigan
American Reporter Correspondent
Los Angeles, California
LOS ANGELES -- I was raised, like every other kid of my generation, in the movie houses of post-war America. We may have been shamefully seduced by Hollywood, but were blessed by being spared the current deluge of television and mass media in our lives.
When I think of the thousands of films I have seen over the years, I realize most of them were as forgettable as the present crop produced for our delectation by the self-described “dream makers“ of the industry, those representatives of the major studios and independent production companies with a close eye on audience trends and the bottom line. But the exceptions were breathtaking.
Yes, there was a time, even in the recent past, when visionary men and women, however much their struggle and frustration, had a public platform in the world, perceiving the creation of a film as the work of an artist. These rare avis directors and film makers made their contribution in that vein, with most other considerations being subservient to that purpose. Names that easily come to mind, like Wells, Bergmann, Wertmuller and Kubrick, have no equal on the big screen today. They defy comparison with popular phenomena like the Rocky or Star Wars pap of today.
My own belief is that an appreciation of imagery had a great deal to do with the value of their films, and that that appreciation is sadly lacking to today's films. Where does one see movies like "The Lady from Shanghai," "Wild Strawberries," or "Barry Lyndon" today? Not that these films were flawless in their execution - it is hard to forget Ryan O'Neal's anachronistic presence in Barry Lyndon, which otherwise made you feet you were inside a series of paintings of two or three centuries ago - but they were genuine efforts to make film a work of art.
There is not much of that kind of creative power even in the art films that whisk about from one festival to another these days. Along comes "Time After Time," for instance, a film made by Lyrebird Media of Australia, which has won so many honors on the festival circuit of late that one is almost convinced that it couldn't be much good, probably full of the pretentiousness and lack of substance found in so many of the current film festivals here and abroad.
You tend to note (scoffing all the while) that the film attempts to draw parallels between the primitive cultures of ancient Ireland, pre-European America, and Australia and New Zealand. On the surface it sounds a little like one of those dreary specials seen on one of the cultural stations in the small hours of the morning. But this is, in fact, a film so rich in meaning and so fearless in its presentation that it cannot be linked with any standard genre of filmmaking.
Nothing will prepare the viewer for the extraordinary imagery that keeps coming at you nonstop together with the beautifully integrated songs of Maireid Sullivan, one of the finest pure singers to come out of Ireland in the last fifty years, imagery so powerful that the traditional need for a narrative line is utterly absent.
You want to stop this film and linger over the pictures that come almost too rapidly at you, pictures of places, nature, and people. It's the kind of film you can see over and over and still find something new and meaningful that you missed before.
I have been to Ireland many times in my life and I live in America, but this film shows me aspects of both those places and cultures, especially in the primitive times the film celebrates, of which I was not fully aware. It showed me these things by its consummate evocation of its themes through a chain of stunning images. "Time After Time" speaks in carefully presented lyrical pictures and makes its salient points eloquently and poetically. You never have the sense of being beaten over the head with an idea of the filmmakers.
The work of Ms. Sullivan, Ben Kettlewell, and friends, "Time After Time" is nothing less than a triumph of the eye and the imagination.
Culture Critic Tom Kerrigan is based in Los Angeles.
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13 March, 2007