Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

I don’t think I like when filmmakers put celebrity footage into their films. Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger are important in any number of ways, but appropriating them as they are appropriated in this film can so easily and often come off as cheating, or obsequiousness. Inquiry or reflection, and formalist elaboration too, can just screech to a halt when the cool famous person shows up.

Is that entirely fair? Maybe these images are coming from that transistor radio. Popular culture, intermingled with the personal, and the cultural (those cool Hebrew letters)? Well, these iconic or obsequious images are there for you to consider in any case.

Beyond that, Aleph is a fabulously kinetic, precipitous assembly of images. Photos and films alternate in dizzying, thrilling fashion. The visual surface noise adds to that kinetic sense, to the general precipitousness. It also obscures and jeopardizes the images in interesting ways. For one thing, it performs that familiar modernist function of bringing the process of perception to the foreground. There may be a further modesty operating. In addition to the afore-bemoaned celebrities, there are people here that the artist knows, and they are often presented in an erotic context. This material is powerful, and not it’s not easily dismissable either. Here is an actual, distinct individual, and there is consent in this exchange, and it’s not just objectifying or exhibitionist display. In fact, this material is not so much erotic as intimate.

Inappropriate? Perhaps, for many, or at least in this kind of public setting. But is there a further application? What of one’s own erotic/intimate life? Contrary to rumour, or too much of the discourse, there’s much to calmly consider, reflect upon and learn from films like this. I guess I’ll invite you to work out the whens and wheres and hows of that.

John Zorn’s white light score, added long after the fact, is an exact, effective complement to the images.