Fake Fruit Factory

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

We’re looking at a few selections from the fourth entry in a very important series of avant garde compilations. Here’s what the American Film Preservation Foundation has to say about it: http://bit.ly/1gpwosw

Fake Fruit Factory: Sociological and formal, in equal measure. In the first place, Fake Fruit Factory is a very patient, concentrated, instructive document about working women. We get the rhythms of their labour, the craft process, the sameness of it all, as well as the skill and care they bring to their tasks. We also get the conditions in which they work, a sense of how manufacturing relates to markets and commerce generally. It would seem that the film advocates free trade. More pointedly, we have the pecking order of the workplace, a sense of hierarchy and also inequality. In fact, in remarkably unfussy fashion this ends up being a record of systemic sexual harassment. And of the remarkably matter-of-fact way that these ladies put up with it.

What do we do with all of this? What have we learned, or what does it mean? Are these women just accepting the unacceptable? Are they permanently subjugated? Or is this insistent boss man also vulnerable somehow, and also worthy of consideration and empathy? Are power relations more complicated than they seem when desire and being desired enter in? These ladies are certainly matter of fact. At one point we see a lovely, stout infant. What does one make of this simultaneous symbol and reality? An emblem of sexual subjugation, even enslavement? Or the happy product of the fools these mortals be?

As for form, director Chick Strand’s devotion to the close up is quite stunning. Faces, hands and, of course, fake fruit (which is also pretty terrifically fashioned). Her photography is caring, caressing. The fact that she doesn’t use a single long shot, establishing shot, orienting shot might mean a number of things. It’s a modernist strategy, relating specifically to a modernism of anxiety. Or, like the ladies, it simply concentrates, leaving that which lies beyond the frame beyond the frame.