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By David Finkelstein | December 18, 2002

“Winterwheat” was made by bleaching, scratching, and painting directly on the emulsion of an educational film about farming. The source footage shows tractors and threshers rolling over flat fields of wheat, hands holding grains of wheat, and occasional maps of the US. This footage is covered with layers of scratches, blotches, and streaks, rushing along at the speed of 24 frames a second, in the manner of most hand manipulated films. The film is made of short sequences, punctuated by blackouts. The soundtrack consists of noises, which alternately sound like strong winds and machinery.

Street’s colors and forms are appealing, and the musicality with which he shapes his material is stylish. The rushing fecundity of the imagery suggested to me a feeling of biological abundance, of the teeming energetic life of microorganisms, which live within a field of wheat. It certainly created a feeling of an unleashing of a wild, free form energy into the dry tone of the educational film.

In a second section, Street plays with a variety of frame rates slower than 24fps. This strikes me as a major expressive advantage over typical hand manipulated films, which all run at the same frame rate, like music which is forced to be played all at one tempo.

Street varies the speed from the kinetic rush of 24fps all the way down to speeds of about 2fps, which almost feel like fast slide shows, allowing you to truly experience each frame as a piece of still art. This section, imbued with a tomato-y color, also obscures the underlying farm footage much more, and is thus inherently more abstract. This section provides a satisfying deepening of the material from the film’s beginning.

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