Decasia | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Filmmaker Bill Morrison spent two years foraging through the film archives of the University of South Carolina, the Library of Congress, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York to assemble this 70-minute collage of hallucinatory images produced by the decomposition of nitrate film stocks. At times it threatens to contract into an artifact of academic obsession, but the more expansive passages connote an epic struggle between the human need to create history and the power of time and entropy to erase it. Because Morrison selected partially decayed footage, each shot crackles with the tension between its representational content and the bubbles, scratches, and blotches eating away at it: a pair of lovers are hounded by swarming black dots, miners swing picks at a wall of bubbling gray, and, in the film's most remarked-upon image, a boxer punches away at a column of roiling nitrate. Accompanied by a pulsing, rather cacophonous symphonic score by minimalist composer Michael Gordon (the title is a punning reference to Fantasia), the film asks us to embrace not only the death of beauty but the beauty of death. Also on the program: Morrison's 12-minute The Film of Her. Facets Cinematheque.

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