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By Amy R. Handler | March 6, 2013

Director Wonder Russell’s REVELATION is surely a beautiful work of art, but cinema is unfortunately not its proper venue. In many ways, REVELATION reminds me of the work of Matthew Barney. However, I think his grand epic Cremaster Cycle —presented at the Guggenheim Museum—is more an installation piece than a series of films (even if some choose to label them as such).

Russell’s art concerns a series of silent vignettes within fields of music. These pieces can be analyzed singularly or as a whole. In each segment, a different actress, attired in all variations of costume and mask, has a life altering experience that educates her, and the viewer, about something. Though the experience may begin in the mundane— as for example, the loss of a baby— the end result takes the character closer to paradise—or the other way.

REVELATION is very much about identity, reflected in the faces and bodies of the varying actresses who could perhaps be analyzed as one entity. Identity is also referenced in costume and the mask—a very theatrical concept.

Some might argue that Alice Guy explored religious themes, costume and identity, and her work was surely filmic. That is all true, but I must reiterate, Guy’s work was very cinematic, and was not only about far reaching concepts, but film itself—-i.e. film stock, texture, color variations within black and white, etc.

Others might say, that REVELATION is much like the work of that queen of Avant-garde, Maya Deren. But still, I think not— as Deren’s work was even more so about film stock, lighting, and how one affects the other.

So how to rate REVELATION… I admit that Russell has put me in a very difficult position. As always, a critic’s analysis is an opinion, and should be taken as such. My rating in this instance is strictly my own statement, that REVELATION would be much better placed within the venues of theatre, ballet or installation than presented as a film.

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  1. Amy R. Handler says:

    Hey Gabrielle,

    Thanks for your comment. As an experimental-narrative filmmaker, and one who appreciates alternative art forms, such as installation, ballet, and theatricals of all types (including, live-opera), it’s my opinion that REVELATION would be a provocative, interactive-installation—perhaps shown on numerous, (exotically, lit) multi-demensional-projections.
    The fact that there are closeups within the piece, still doesn’t convince me that it’s true, cinema. However, as an installation–on screens throughout a large space— the affect upon viewers would be immense!

  2. Gabrielle says:

    I feel compelled to respond. I feel like Russell chose the vehicle for this project for a reason. She applied her interdisciplinary background and challenged the artform to fit her vision, that’s the risk, if she had put the same movement in the context of theatre or dance, would it have been as effective as seeing it in a two-dimensional context? Also, the close ups and specificity of the focus in Rev. is part of it’s grandeur and beauty, in ways that can’t be done in performance art. I think an installation, where the film might be interacted with by live performance would be an awesome development, but also I think the fact that you, as a reviewer, are trying to place the actual content of the work in a completely different medium only speaks to Its merit as a successful experiment. Love that it sparked this dialogue!

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