A man and a woman inhabit the same surreal location though not, apparently, at the same time.
Marta Renzi directs this black-and-white meditation on memory and absence, joined by long-time collaborator Charles Caster-Dudzick (camera), as well as Aislinn MacMaster & David Thomson (performers). With a nod to the soundscore for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and the location of La Chambre by Joelle Bouvier and Regis Obadia.
Marta Renzi is the creator of over 20 short films which have screened in festivals all over the world. Called by Dancing in the Streets “a fearless explorer of unconventional sites” for her site-specific choreography, Renzi was commissioned by public television to make 2 half-hour video dances in the 1980’s. Funded 7 times by the NEA, Renzi is a 2013 Bogliasco Fellow and a 2014 RAW Community Supported Artist. HER MAGNUM OPUS, Renzi’s debut feature film, premiered at the Port Townsend Film Festival in fall 2017. This is the 7th time her work has been screened as part of Black Maria Film Festival & Tour.
Renzi projects are always low-budget, with very direct collaboration between camera / director and actors, and no additional crew or staff. The “art direction” in fact is often nature itself, with costumes usually collected from the actors’ own wardrobes.
But for the design of the location for in search of lost time, the director & cameraperson collaborated on the “star floor”, even doing a few tests in advance. (It was made by poking holiday lights through black landscape cover – an inexpensive substitute for velvet curtains.)
We shot over the course of a few days in Stamford, Vermont in a two-story cabin, emptying it of furniture, except for the white table and chairs. We found that the star floor worked best if it extended from the floor plane to one wall, creating a surreal void. Thanks to Marta Miller at certain bird, we also stayed in a separate house for the shoot, sharing meals together and watching “dailies” on a big tv each night.
My work typically uses pre-recorded music – very often pop music – the goal being to welcome audience into a shared experience with familiar music as an ice-breaker. But in this case, I knew in advance that I wanted to use a sound score instead. As research, I watched the recent re-release of Andrei Tarkovsky’s STALKER, and downloaded an assortment of sounds with which to make my own sound score.
I first started working with cameraman Charles Caster-Dudzick when he was still in high school and we shot Aqua-booty. Since then we have collaborated on 890 Broadway; Honeymoon; On the Way to work and Her Magnum Opus, a feature film released in 2017. Now the ripe old age of 25, Charles is a huge fan of early black-and-white films, and chooses to shoot his projects on 8mm or 16mm whenever possible, so I knew that in search of lost time would be right up his alley.
The two actors – Aislinn MacMaster and David Thomson have both worked with me on numerous projects, for decades – but neither at the same time. In fact, they first met on the ride up to Vermont, walking into the shooting process as strangers, and leaving a few days later with the peculiar intimacy forged by many hours of silent communication – and many more of chit-chat while waiting for the next shot to be set-up. All of their movement was improvised by them on the spot. David, a professional actor/dancer with a great deal of experience on stage and screen, was dumbfounded by Aislinn’s artistry, since her current profession is as an ICU nurse.
My relationship to Black Maria goes back to its earliest years, when John Columbus ran it. Here’s the list, as best I remember it, of my past participation in festivals spanning over 30 years.
IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME (37th Black Maria)
A THOUSAND MILES FROM THE SEA (34th Black Maria)
HER CHILDREN MOURN (33rd Black Maria)
890 BROADWAY (32nd Black Maria)
YEAR, MAKE & MODEL (31st Black Maria)
WHERE THE DANCE IS (30th Black Maria)
MOUNTAINVIEW (1989 – was this the 3rd Black Maria)
Mountainview was originally shot on film, transferred to video for editing and broadcast. John Columbus asked that the final video version be re-transferred back to 35mm for a Black Maria screening at Maxwell’s Bar in Hoboken. John Sayles, who co-directed it with me, laughs about how the process made it look like it was shot underwater.)