PRINT December 2011

Film: Best of 2011

Ed Halter

Luther Price, Fragile X—Inkblot #13, 2008, and Inkblot #31, 2009, strips from two handpainted films in 16 mm, 7 minutes and 8 minutes, respectively.

1 Inkblot films (Luther Price) Produced by scraping the emulsion from old footage, recutting it, and coloring it with inks and Sharpies, Price’s 16-mm and Super 8 inkblot films—a selection of which he screened in person in Milwaukee and Chicago this year—have nothing of the stained-glass delicacy characteristic of handpainted work; rather, they struggle through the projector with an unsettlingly existential corporeality.

2 Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers) In this feature-length visit with a woodlands hermit in Scotland, Rivers disjoints documentary images from any clear place and time, creating something both postapocalyptic and prelapsarian.

3 Words of Mercury (Jerome Hiler) A set of intricate variations on super­imposition rich with Kodachrome hues, Hiler’s film—his first new work screened publicly in more than a decade—was the most quietly exhilarating premiere at this year’s New York Film Festival.

4 High-Definition Video Guide (Electronic Arts Intermix) Written by Leah Churner, this no-nonsense technical primer should be required reading for anyone in the art world who plans to exhibit video. From now on, there’s no excuse for getting your aspect ratios wrong.

5 The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr) Tarr claims (once again) that this will be his final film, and it feels appropriately end-time, depicting with magnificent austerity the daily life of a farmer and his daughter as the world collapses.

6 Quality Control (Kevin Jerome Everson) Typically gnomic, Everson’s latest feature—which premiered on the heels of his survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York—is also his sharpest, a portrait of an Alabama dry cleaner taken from every angle of operation.

John Smith, Blight, 1994–96, still from a color film in 16 mm, 14 minutes.

7 John Smith (Lux DVD box set) Four decades of work from one of Britain’s shrewdest filmmakers, who reshapes narrative and documentary forms into philosophical puzzles.

8 You Are Not I (Sara Driver) A strange and compelling artifact, depicting its post-traumatic protagonist in a No Wave Twilight Zone, Driver’s 1981 featurette resurfaced unexpectedly when the only extant undamaged print was discovered in Tangier, among the late Paul Bowles’s possessions.

9 Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) A grim and epic policier, Ceylan’s Turkish talkie is also, in more ways than one, a study of bodies in the landscape.

10 Ericka Beckman, Manuel DeLanda, and Bette Gordon (Anthology Film Archives, New York) This spring, Anthology unveiled long-awaited preservations of early films from these underseen artists who, in the 1970s and ’80s, sought to reassemble cinematic structures with algebraic precision.

Ed Halter is a founder and director of Light Industry, New York, and a cocurator of the film and video program for the 2012 Whitney Biennial.