#213) (nostalgia) (1971)

hollis-frampton_nostalgia-2

#213) (nostalgia) (1971)

OR “Burn After Filming”

Directed & Written by Hollis Frampton

Class of 2003

The Plot: Experimental filmmaker/photographer Hollis Frampton showcases 12 of his photos from over the years. Fellow experimental artist Michael Snow narrates a transcription of Frampton’s recollections of the photo. Not interesting enough? Well what if I told you they burn the photos over a hot plate while the narration is happening? What do you think of that?

Why It Matters: The NFR calls it “eloquent and evocative in its exploration of memory and family” and…that’s it. The description of this one is literally one sentence. They do, however, include an essay that is just the liner notes from the DVD.

But Does It Really?: At first I was pretty “meh” about this film’s NFR inclusion. But the more I read about Hollis Frampton, the more I came around to the idea. As his avant-garde photography evolved into film he started to push the boundaries of what film could be. His concepts were deceivingly simple, yet quite thought-provoking. “(nostalgia)” is a perfect representation of Frampton’s work. It is not only a unique piece of filmmaking, it’s also, appropriately enough, about preservation and memory. These photos were long destroyed, but they live on in film. Makes ya think, don’t it?

Everybody Gets One: Both a high school and college dropout, Hollis Frampton knew early on that he wanted to be a poet. After a brief but illuminating correspondence with the poet Ezra Pound, Frampton realized that poetry was not his calling, and moved to New York with his former classmates Frank Stella and Carl Andre. He quickly took up photography, which quickly became filmmaking. I’m not sure when Frampton met Michael Snow, but they were both in the New York art scene of the early ‘60s, and that seems like a small enough group where everybody knows everybody. Michael Snow is a successful artist and experimental filmmaker in his own right, and at one point did an experimental music piece based around the Whitney Houston song “How Will I Know”.

Wow, That’s Dated: Mainly the practice of developing film. “One photograph left on the roll” would be replaced today with “low battery on my phone”.

Seriously, Oscars?: No nominations for “(nostalgia)”. I’m a little uncertain as to whether it would qualify as a live-action short or a documentary short. Weirdly enough, the film “Sentinels of Silence” won in both categories at the Oscars that year. Oscar rules were quickly changed so that documentary shorts could not also compete in the Live-Action Short category. It’s the kind of genre-bending head-scratcher that would feel right at home in one of Frampton’s films.

Other notes

  • Of course every time they burn a photo all I can hear is the “Bonanza” theme. I have got to update my references.
  • Michael Snow hails from Toronto, and that is a strong Canadian accent coming through the narration.
  • “(nostalgia)” is part of a series of Frampton films called “Hapax Legomena”. Roughly translated from Greek as “being said once”, it is the term used for words that only show up once in either a single work or a body of work. For example, this is the only one of these “Horse’s Head” write-ups to include the word “glockenspiel”.
  • What hapax legomena has to do with “(nostalgia)” I’ll never know. I’d have to look at Frampton’s other work, and a lot of his early stuff has been deemed lost (possibly burnt over a hot plate while a Canadian acquaintance narrates about another film).
  • It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that the narration is out of sync with the photos. Snow’s narration is describing the next photo we will see being burned. It keeps you engaged and forces you to create a mental image of the picture before you see it. As if setting these photos on fire wasn’t interesting enough.
  • “A Cast of Thousands” Booooooo. I’m glad the world of avant-garde art still has room for puns.
  • But why the parentheses in the title? Is the idea of nostalgia not the main focus? Is it secondary to something else?
  • “As you can see…” No I can’t, you tease of a movie!
  • Two words: time-lapse photography. This could have been much shorter.

Legacy

  • Hollis Frampton continued with film (as well as lecturing at SUNY Buffalo) before his untimely death in 1984. His final and most ambitious project was called “Magellan”, and was going to consist of one film for every day of the year.
  • Michael Snow is still with us and, in addition to his continued contributions to art and music, has been getting more lifetime achievement awards than there are lifetime achievement awards.
  • And of course, “Frampton Comes Alive!”

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