Sogobi

Among the most thoughtful and rewarding practitioners of truly independent-minded American cinema over the last three decades, James Benning concludes his most recent trilogy of 90-minute pics on urban and remote California landscapes with "Sogobi."

Among the most thoughtful and rewarding practitioners of truly independent-minded American cinema over the last three decades, James Benning concludes his most recent trilogy of 90-minute pics on urban and remote California landscapes with “Sogobi.” Series of some 30 static shots of approximately three minutes length are mesmerizing over time, yet experimental nature of approach indicates bigscreen play primarily in well-rounded fests and on-the-ball art museums.

New pic, title of which means “earth” in Shoshonean, follows 1999’s “El Valley Centro” and 2000’s “Los,” which explored California’s Great Central Valley and Los Angeles, respectively. Assembled over a year spent alone in the state’s wilderness, images include sandstorms, snowstorms, petroglyphs and cacti, with gradual encroachment of industry becoming apparent in both manmade structures and increased aural hum of traffic. Per Benning, triptych forms a visual loop, with first shot of “Sogobi” connecting to final shot of “Los,” and concluding shot here linking back to first shot of “El Valley Centro.” Tech credits are spare yet crisp; as artist said to one Berlin crowd of his fondness for endangered yet preferred 16mm format, “It’s getting cheaper with digital video, but that isn’t filmmaking.”

Sogobi

Japan

Production: A James Benning production. (International sales: James Benning, Valencia, Calif.) Produced, directed, edited by Benning.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), sound, Benning. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 8, 2002. Running time: 90 MIN.

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