Snow in December
- So Is This + A Casing Shelved
- Michael Snow
- Snow in December
“Snow sees his work as capable of confronting complex aesthetic and theoretical issues in an accessible—and pleasurable—way. And [with So Is This] he is clearly right.”Jim Hillier, Writing and Cinema
So Is This
43 min. 16mm Silent.
A “silent” film that doubles as a stand-up act, a voice in your head, and a brilliant explosion of the methods by which anyone comes to read a film’s images, Michael Snow’s So Is This is perhaps the strongest argument against the idea that the artist made films purely in defiance of a popular audience. This is the set-up: words from an eight-paragraph text are projected in sequence, one at a time, at varying duration, their type spanning an equal width within the frame (giving three- and four-letter words like “this” an unusual emphasis). With no soundtrack, the voice of the words—their pace and punning, their economy and eagerness—fills the auditorium of the mind. The vast implications of Snow’s seemingly minimalist work—not for nothing does it invoke Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images”—are just one aspect of this satisfyingly complex and comedic communal reading.
“An apogee … Like the radical reversal in Wavelength that privileges space over narrative action, this silent film has allowed the intertitle, as it were, to usurp the role of the picture, and in so doing to speak directly to the viewer.” Bruce Jenkins, Michael Snow: Sequences
A Casing Shelved
45 min. 35mm slide
Before Michael Snow promised in So Is This that he would make a “confessional and very personal” film, there was A Casing Shelved, which features the shelves moved into position near the beginning of Wavelength, and Snow’s voice, in first-person raconteur mode. As a material history of the shelves’ contents, used and disused, the film sets out to be exhaustive; as an explanation of his methods, technical tools, and thoughts, it might be expected to be frank. The disjunctures between photography and reality, and thought and memory, are instead what predominate, as Snow guides our eyes around a single photographic slide—at the time, the way lecturers would present students with reproductions of visual art. “It is the stability of the inanimate that keeps life from flying away,” Manny Farber wrote in response to Wavelength. A Casing Shelved tests that theory.
“An extraordinary work … The uniqueness of [A Casing Shelved] lies not only in the wit and subtlety of its researches, but in the surprisingly thoroughgoing manner in which it functions as a powerful expression of modernist sensibility.” Andrée Hayum, Film Culture