I am glad for the Sundance program notes, which offered a clue on what “Black and White Trypps Number Three” is supposed to be about: “The transformation of a rock audience’s collective freak-out into a trance ritual of the highest spiritual order.” Aha. Otherwise, I would’ve assumed it was just an amateurish short about a bunch of sweaty teenagers jumping up and down to what could charitably be called “music.”
The film opens with an off-camera voice telling the youthful subjects they are going to captured on camera – and those who don’t want to be immortalized for posterity on digital video are advised to “duck.” Then for ten minutes there is the stagnant, monotonous vision of sweaty, bleary-eyed kids reeling side-to-side and up-and-down in a tight space. The outline of the neck of a guitar in the lower right corner reminds us this is supposed to be a musical setting, though it is appears the kids are not moving in rhythm to whatever is being played.
Filmmaker (and I use the term very, very liberally) Ben Russell has achieved a new level of cinematic laziness here. The camerawork is almost totally stagnant and the entire film appears to have been illuminated with a flashlight. A band called Lightning Bolt is credited with the instrumental blaring, while Joe Grimm gets a nod for “drone music” (I hear a drone, but I don’t hear music). The kids are not identified, nor is the setting where this was shot, although the city of Providence, R.I., is mentioned in the closing credits.
If this film represents a “trance ritual of the highest spiritual order,” all I can say is: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”