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By David Finkelstein | November 16, 2011

“I My Bike” is a short, poetic film by Ken Paul Rosenthal, in which riding a bike becomes a metaphor for navigating through danger, and negotiating a relationship to one’s own death. Much of the imagery is of people biking down Market Street in San Francisco, at times in a large group, like the Critical Mass bike actions. An oval-shaped vignette is inserted into the center of the frame at all times, showing contrasting footage, sometimes of pre-earthquake San Francisco. A voice-over narration, in highly evocative language, moves back and forth between a childhood focussed on the possibilities of accidents and death, and the present. Often, the speaker identifies his own body with that of the city: “My arteries are jammed with the intermittent pulse of traffic lights…” The music transforms the sounds of a stick in the spokes of a wheel, which later becomes the sounds of a film projector or makes a gamelan-like music.

The double image evokes a double consciousness: of the mortality which is embedded into all of life, or an awareness of the old city lying underneath the contemporary city. I ordinarily think of childhood as a period where one is less aware of death, but this film reminded me of how completely death obsessed most kids are, as one can see by the kinds of games that they play, where they are often acting out scenes of death and killing.

Ken Paul Rosenthal uses his exceptionally poetic sense of collage to bring together images, sounds, and text in an emotionally powerful and visually beautiful film.

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