BY FRED CAMPER
Thursday, June 17, 1976
BRUCE CONNER FILMS
Anthology Film Archives
On June 17, Anthology Film Archives is showing two new Bruce Conner films, Crossroads and Take the 5:10 to Dreamland. Conner is perhaps best known for A Movie and Cosmic Ray, two rapid-fire collage films that got laughs throughout the country during the 1960’s. Take the 5:10 to Dreamland, by contrast, is a very slow collage film, in which diverse images are separated from each other by brief sections of darkness. It is also my favorite Conner film.
Several weeks ago, I discussed a “cinema of the image,” in which films were constructed so as to preserve the integrity of the individual image, rather than enclosing it in a reductive structure. Take the 5:10 to Dreamland isn’t really about the image, but its shots do stand as separate appearances, separate events. The film is composed of a variety of very different shots, with few attempts to link them in obvious ways. Many, such as the strange close-up of a drop falling into liquid in slow motion, are like no others in the film. Throughout the work, shots differ from each other in scale, in sense of time, in subject matter. Conner’s sense of dream is realized in these differences: the strange transitions that they produce; the relaxed, disconnected flow of the film, caused partly by the way images are separated by darkness; the overall brownish tint. I felt in a state of relaxed disconnection somewhat related to those moments when one is just drifting into sleep.
Crossroads is a longer film (36 minutes); while also slow-paced, it is otherwise very different. It is made of footage of the 1946 Atomic Bomb test at Bikini Atoll. We see the explosion from a variety of different angles; each view lasts many minutes; the mushroom cloud gradually disperses, and many “beautiful” patterns of cloud and mist are formed. The film seems to be trying to come to terms with the event through continually re-seeing it as developed from many angles. Because of the many repetitions of the explosion, the time of the film is not at all the time of the event, but rather is the time of an attempt to contemplate the event.