Friday, November 07, 2003

THE LETTER, at the London Film Festival. Let's not talk too much about aesthetics, because then I'll have to describe what might have led more than half of a packed house to walk out on this film (see the above link for a full description; in short, it's a film about text messaging). Instead, let's talk about--oh, I don't know--ethnography. In this light, the film is remarkably brave, willing to retain all of the banality and bathos of late night text messaging between bored Japanese teenagers. Here is one exchange featured in the film: 1. you ok? 2. yup. 3. [after many erasures, one of which was 'don't you have anything else to say?', he settles on] yeah. 4. yeah! yahoo! 5. yeah! yeah! yeah!. At which point, the exchange ends. And because the film is real time in this segment, sustaining a shot of the phone's screen and the phone in its charger, the exchange takes maybe 15 minutes. It's an excruciating film to watch, naked and unadorned (e.g. the soundtrack includes music from the boy's stereo until the cd ends. Because the boy doesn't play another cd, the second half of the film's score is the sound of static interference caused by the proximity of a poor quality mic and a mobile phone). But full of longing and loneliness. All very much like good ethnography. Social scientists: try to find a copy, then go see the Matrix.