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By David Finkelstein | February 27, 2007

This video is comprised of footage of shoppers in a mall: riding the escalators, peering into windows, and gliding past piles of shiny, seductive objects. The soundtrack is a haunting, lovely Baroque song, in French. The video employs an effect similar to one that filmmaker Scott Stark used in his earlier “Angel Beach.” (See my review for details.) A kind of simple 3D effect is created by flickering back and forth, throughout the video, between shots which are spatially separated by a few feet. The result, once you get used to the surface busyness created by the constantly flickering image, is a kind of depth effect, where objects which are nearest to the vanishing point seem still, while those that are on the periphery seem to be in constant motion.

Even without this effect, the juxtaposition of this hauntingly beautiful and refined song about love and death with images of shoppers in a mall would make a powerful film. It seems to say many different things; that, in our culture, when people go shopping, they are on a search for the same things that people have always searched for in every culture, for redemption, love, transcendence, wholeness. It says that the shoppers in capitalist culture are being “ripped off” in many more senses than the merely financial. The elegiac mood of profound loss produced by the music causes the images of shopping to take on the tone of a tragic loss, a loss of the soul.

So, what does the 3D effect add to all of this? In a phrase, it produces an experience of “fake depth.” (And I don’t mean this as a verbal pun, but as a way of describing a nonverbal feeling I had while watching.) And this, for me, was highly resonant with the feeling that the final “rip off” which capitalism does to our souls is to provide us with a feeling of “fake depth.” Once again, Scott Stark has assembled simple elements to make a complex, profound film with a surprisingly strong emotional impact.

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