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Casting a Glance

Practically an action movie by ultra-minimalist James Benning's standards, "Casting a Glance" features stationary shots of less than one minute each.

Practically an action movie by ultra-minimalist James Benning’s standards, “Casting a Glance” features stationary shots of less than one minute each — albeit all of the same location. As ever, those willing to go with the flow will experience something beautiful and hypnotic; others will quickly find the exit. Pic will play the filmmaker’s usual smattering of fests, cinematheques and experimental venues.

Subject here (though not identified onscreen) is the Spiral Jetty of rocks built by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 on the shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Benning filmed the walkable sculpture frequently in its early days; titles noting footage dates then leap forward quickly as water levels submerged the artwork for decades at a time, receding fairly recently. With his always arresting eye for the natural world, Benning captures jetty, sky, lake and seasons in constant change, unusually (for him) deploying detail close-ups as well as long shots. Lapping waves and birdsong dominate the soundtrack, though there are occasional intrusions of man — planes overhead, hunters’ gunshots, even somebody’s boombox playing “Love Hurts.” Thirty-seven years of 16mm stock blend together seamlessly.

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Casting a Glance

  • Production: A James Benning production. Produced, directed, written, edited by Benning.
  • Crew: Camera, (color, 16mm), Benning. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (New Frontier), Jan. 25, 2008. Running time: 80 MIN.
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