MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson offers these thoughts on his star turn in Guy Ben-Ner’s new film.
I spent most of last week artist Guy Ben-Ner, cinematographer John Russell Foster, sound guru Roger PhenixÂ our own curator/producer Susan Cross, and problem-solver Eugene Rutligliano, taking a star turn as a perfectly cast museum director/pilot/fool, in Guyâ€™s new video installation which will premier here on May 23rd.
God, was it excruciating, and a lot of fun.
I am a truly terrible actor which Guy kept saying was â€śperfect, no, really, Joe, itâ€™s ok, itâ€™s ok.â€ťÂ Though Guyâ€™s dense, sometimes archaic, dialogue was a challenge, it really wasnâ€™t really so difficult as to be a sufficient excuse for my utter inability to remember more than seven words at a time.Â Â Guy wasnâ€™t much better by the way, and he wrote the damn thing.
We shot about a third of the film in a very small plane, the camera literally in our laps, bumping around in turbulence, sometimes at treetop level, in the nap of the Berkshires. Â But that was a walk in the park compared to our scenes on a bicycle built-for-two in Charlemont, Mass. on the Mohawk Trail, where I really thought we could be killed.
In spite of the dubious talent in front of the lens, the talent behind it â€“ Guyâ€™s web of clashing metaphor, his whimsical, literate warp and weave of quotes, his film-making sleight-of-hand, and his sly editing, Â together with John and Rogerâ€™s magical work â€“ may well overcome all my worst efforts.
The visuals are sometimes a riot, and there are moments of outright beauty in the video.Â There is a meta-structure and a grand arc to the narrative (which may become a loop, unless Guy slices it), and which will reward (and may well demand) multiple viewings.Â And — Â I promise — Â there is one of the best plane crashes ever recorded on film.Â A pretty darned good car crash too.Â And literary meteorites galore.
In short, there is plenty of vivid eye candy here to leaven a richly interwoven, profoundly self-referential text:Â if youâ€™re a film buff, or a literary hound, or just love seeing the splendor of the Â Berkshires in the springtime I think youâ€™ll enjoy this 16-minute buddy adventure gone mad.Â And if you donâ€™t, you’ll find seven of Guyâ€™s other terrific video shorts on view in the galleries.
Iâ€™m sure casting directors at major studios are battling to get my number first.