Reflections From the Social Dystopia: Films by Arthur Lipsett | Chicago Reader

Reflections From the Social Dystopia: Films by Arthur Lipsett

Arthur Lipsett, a Canadian filmmaker most active during the 60s, is almost unknown in the U.S., but his films rank among the most powerful experimental work I?ve ever seen, documents of industrial dehumanization colored by a deepening sense of personal despair. In Free Fall rapidly edited footage of sun through trees is more fragmented than lyrical, nature filtered through some infernal machine. Faces on city streets, stripped of context and frighteningly disconnected from each other, become haunting fragments, and by matching and mismatching sound and image Lipsett creates hallucinatory voices, disembodied sentences offering weird commentary on what we?re seeing. Most extraordinary is the way his editing mirrors the logic of depression, each new fact reinforcing one?s despair. In Fluxes a shot of an aviator donning a helmet is followed by a rising temperature gauge and then by bombs falling, and in N-zone Lipsett parallels repeated images of an apparently innocuous dinner party with images of rodents running in circles and toy fish “trapped” in a bathtub. A colleague viewing one of Lipsett?s films told him, ?The world can?t be that miserable,? but for Lipsett it must have been—he committed suicide in 1986. On the same program: 21-87, A Trip Down Memory Lane, and Very Nice, Very Nice.

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