This DVD collection of handmade 16mm films by Eric Ostrowski follows the extremely well-worn formula for experimental film blazed half a century ago by Brakhage and others. In some of the films, Ostrowski is beginning to find his individual voice and how to give his films particular expressive qualities. Hopefully, as his work matures, he will push himself much further to create work which is as refined, artistically expressive, and as specific as possible.
trt: 2:40 minutes
This handmade, handpainted film follows the conventions of the genre. A new image in each frame, at 24 frames per second, ensures that we don’t see particular forms (except an occasional glimpse of a daisy) but rather we feel a blur and rush of color and movement at an even pace. A variety of colored paint splotches, scratched forms, and underlying stock footage, edge sprockets, etc., whirl past us. The soundtrack, evidently created by painting on the optical sound strip, sounds like indistinct rumbling.
This film looks exactly like a vast number of films that have been made over the last fifty years. No particular expressive qualities are created through the choices of color or forms. The film also has no distinctive or expressive structure or development. The soundtrack is an afterthought, which adds no expressive or artistic quality to the work.
trt: 3:30 minutes
Similar to “Golden Daisy,” this film does have some discernible sections with different qualities. Passages of white geometric shapes which flicker over color fields alternate with black squiggles dancing over color fields. The soundtrack is similar to “Daisy.”
NYLON AND CHENILLE
trt: 3:30 minutes
Another film in the same style, this one is beginning to show individual and expressive qualities. Ostrowski has incorporated images of the fine mesh of artificial fabrics into much of the footage. (I’m not sure if the fabric was photographed, or somehow applied directly to the filmstrip.) This creates an interesting counterpoint to the handpainted washes of color. The colors themselves no longer include every hue randomly, but stick to a palate of mostly yellow, red, and orange, giving the film a particularly autumnal mood. Even the soundtrack has slightly more variety to it, alternating between oceanlike noise and sounds reminiscent of a car which has trouble starting.
SPINART AND MONOPRINT
music by Noggin
The slower frame rate of this film (about 10 frames per second) automatically creates more interest. At this rate, one can almost discern individual painted images, yet one retains the overall sensation of overwhelming movement and change. The images are actually quite interesting compositions: splotches of paint, some in deep forest greens, blues, and others in fiery reds and yellows. The soundtrack, by the duo Noggin (of which Ostrowski is a member) is an evocative blend of bowed strings and rumblings. Together with the saturated colors, reminiscent of stained glass, the music almost creates a cathedral-like texture.
BOEING FIELD HANGAR
trt: 4 minutes
This film combines apparently photographed imagery of a series of grids which zoom passed the camera with handpainted and handmade imagery. The color palette is extremely subdued, with quiet mauves, raspberry, and soft greens, making this a much more moody, evocative and expressive film than the first ones. The interplay between the grids and the other forms and colors creates considerable interest. It is also a stronger choice for Ostrowski to make a silent film with strong images, rather than a film with a poorly realized soundtrack.
CHASING THE FUGITIVE
trt: 4 minutes
This handmade silent film is mostly in yellows and browns. Some forms flash by which look like leaves. Many of the blobby, curvilinear forms look like ice, frosted glass, or flames. The specific choices made save the film from being as generalized as the first two in the collection.