BY JONAS MEKAS
Thursday, June 17, 1976
… But I saw a little film by Bruce Conner, called “5:10 to Dreamland,” which is just a little film of seven minutes, and it contains very few images, and they are not too spectacular. But Bruce Conner collages them in ecstatic orders and they work in miraculous ways. The film has no real subject, at least not one that would be immediately visible. It’s just a series of images – a canal, a road, a mysterious white receding shape, a girl with a ball in front of a mirror, a slow-motion water splash, some clouds. The film is tinted soft brown. The girl, the tint, the splash remind one of Joseph Cornell. But it’s a Conner film. A Conner film in a Cornell key.
There was a time, two decades ago, when a film like this could have been called “a film poem.” We don’t use such terms now: we do not want to be confused with the experience of reading a poem. Cinema is supposed to be all images, all visual. But I think cinema has outgrown that type of inhibition. I think we can speak freely today again about the poetic feeling in cinema without being afraid that a poem will take over a film. We know today that they do not mix. But the feeling, the state produced by a film like “5:10 to Dreamland,” is very similar to the feeling produced by a poem. The images, their mysterious relationships, the rhythm, and the connections impress themselves upon the unconscious. The film ends, like a poem ends, almost like a puff, like nothing. And you sit there, in silence, letting it all sink deeper, and then you stand up and you know it was very, very good…