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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Monday, June 18, 2007

Zorn's Lemma

I can't think of any movie experience remotely like Hollis Frampton's Zorn's Lemma (I think I'll just use the apostrophe in the title until someone tells me that Frampton didn't want it). Certainly I've never worked so damned hard keeping up with a movie. Interestingly, Frampton is clearly holding the audience by the hand as he teaches us his alphabet of images: he gives us ample time to learn each change before slipping us a new one. So the hard work was at least rewarded with a sense of achievement.

The bizarre experience of taking a test during a movie was completely distracting, so that I absorbed the materiality and the narrativity of the alphabet images only indirectly, during brief rest periods. Somehow this strengthened my investment in the images: I don't think I would have found the "letter H" guy's walk around the corner very interesting in itself, but that corner took on mythic spatial qualities for me.

At the risk of being philistinish, I wish Frampton had given us one or two more cycles of the completed image-alphabet. I think he owed that much to the letter C.



Anonymous alsolikelife said...

funny, I don't recall this film being a lot of work to enjoy or understand. I mostly remember the playfulness of the concept and just the wonderful (and inventive) ways of looking at the city. Really one of the best city movies out there.

June 18, 2007 5:33 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I also recall my recent viewing of this as a lot of work, but not in the sense to understand or enjoy but rather a challenge prompted by the film itself, to both follow and learn the exchange of letters for footage as well as, to a lesser degree, follow the narrative within the footage that had a narrative. It never seemed as playful as the challenge of NOSTALGIA, but even while I was watching the film I was fascinated by my willingness to memorize the pattern. I would like to see a transcript of the final section of the film too.

June 18, 2007 9:15 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

I guess the viewer has the option to work at that middle section or not - I'm sure our viewing posture says something about us. On my part, I decided that Frampton was offering me an opportunity: "I'll swap out the motivated signs slowly enough that, if you want, you will be able to learn an image alphabet over the course of this movie." Maybe I was more avid about jumping on that game than some others. At any rate, the play did serve the function of putting me in a different relationship to the images.

June 19, 2007 12:04 PM  
Anonymous msic said...

Thanks for your astute comments on the Frampton. True, ZORNS is like taking a test, but it's also sort of about the mismatch (but eventual shotgun wedding) of language and concepts to the experiential world. Like a lot of Frampton's work, ZORNS is at least in part a response to Brakhage and his logophobia, the (for him, productive) obsession that as we enter the world of language, we lose access to an unmediated world of sensation and singular phenomena.

Oh, and yes, Frampton did not want an apostrophe in the title. It's ZORNS LEMMA, in homage to FINNEGANS WAKE.

June 22, 2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Michael - yeah, it's interesting how one finds oneself on a continuum between symbol and image in that film. Even the most game-playing spectator (i.e., me) is gradually forced to confront the spatial and temporal qualities of the unmotivated signs; and then, by extension, the motivated ones. It was a shrewd move on Frampton's part to make it difficult to find the signage in some of the images, so that often one had to wait for another go-around to find out whether the letter had been replaced or not. What seems like merely an imperfection in the teaching process in fact forces us to consider the similarities between the signage and non-signage images.

Brakhage has always been difficult for me....

June 22, 2007 2:23 PM  

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