A Short Film With No Plot, As Far As I Can Tell
A short experimental film about movement, power, men, women and old Hollywood.
The objective was to take only four elements: a single moving image shot, one sound effect, one track of original music and a portion of vintage movie dialogue, and create something with different layers of meaning.
A film by James F. Robinson. (4 min.)
I was on a high-speed train from Antibes to Paris after the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and decided to go to the dining car. I became mesmerized as I looked out of the window, watching the tracks and the embankment go by at 125 MPH. It creates a rhythmic, otherworldly series of patterns at that speed and I watched it for a long time. I shot some footage and later found that the footage was mesmerizing in a different way. Our eyes and brain naturally adjust color temperature changes in the real world but the camera shows the stark distance difference between warm daylight and cold, cloudy overcast as the speed of the train moves swiftly between the two types of light. Most interestingly for me, the rhythms and patterns of the movement create a unique cognitive and emotional sensation.
I decided to play with the footage, adding one sound effect and one original piece of music I created specifically for the footage. I liked the idea that only 4 elements make up the film. I added dialogue from a trailer of a 1933 drama, I LOVED A WOMAN, starring Edward G Robinson and Kay Francis. The mixture of ruthless, maniacal egotism and the strange lapdog obsession Robinson’s character has for Kay Francis' character seemed to have a special resonance with this era. I love the in-your-face, no holding back performances from melodramas of that time and the special texture of sound recordings from 1933. I deconstructed and manipulated the dialogue to try to capture some different tonal changes and meanings as the journey/film progressed. The fact that the visual part of the film is one continuous shot allowed space for the dialogue and music to play. I like combining two completely unrelated things and seeing what feeling it creates.
I like moments when I can turn off my brain and just absorb — and I hoped to make a small work that encouraged that experience here.
Most film fans know about Edward G Robinson, but Kay Francis is mostly forgotten. She was Warner Bros. Studio's number one female star between 1930 and 1936, before Bette Davis dominated the studio. She is considered a gem of pre-code Hollywood and she and her films are worth remembering.