A Memorial Tribute to Allen Ross | Chicago Reader

A Memorial Tribute to Allen Ross

A cofounder of Chicago Filmmakers and a mainstay of the city's experimental film community for two decades, Allen Ross left town in 1993 and vanished two years later, possibly the victim of foul play; in October 1998 Jack Helbig probed the artist's mysterious disappearance in these pages, and last year police in Wyoming uncovered Ross's remains. Critic Harvey Nosowitz described Ross's major film, The Grandfather Trilogy (1981), as a “profoundly moving . . . attempt to come to terms with death as an event in the living world.” Ross creates a deeply humane portrait of his grandfather and family, using long, static takes and pacing them in a way that replicates the grandfather's halting rhythms. Its startling images make awkwardness and emptiness almost palpable: early in the film Ross photographs his grandfather's face with the camera rotated 90 degrees to the left, destabilizing him, and much later, a long take of the family seated around a TV reminds us how the elder has lost his place as the focal point of the household. Though Ross graduated from the School of the Art Institute, there's something endearingly naive about his style, as if he believed that staring directly at something would somehow reveal its truths. But his stare was always a bit askew, which rescues and even ennobles imagery that might otherwise be mundane or sentimental; as far as I know, he has no successor, which makes that peculiar gaze his real legacy. Also on the program: Tryst and A Wedding (both 1981). 100 min.

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