Monday, 9 March 2009

NO, NOW, NEVER: RADICAL NEW YORK CINEMA

19 February 2008

DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT (dir. Julia Loktev, 2006), 94 minutes

DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT, the feature debut of Julia Loktev is a quite extraordinary film, already hailed as a modern classic, that follows a young American woman on her journey across Manhattan in order to blow up Times Square. Who is she? Why is she doing this? These are questions that Loktev keeps hanging in the air as she tracks, with forensic detail, dry wit and a chilly sensuousness, the shifting micro-topographies through which the woman moves. The resulting tour-de-force is a million miles removed from the winsome mumblings and coercive irony of so many American indie films these days. And yet, though it was one of the best received works at Cannes 2006, its apparent subject matter has meant that it has struggled to command the critical attention or the distribution it deserves.

DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT abjures all the clich├ęs of suicide-bombing documentaries or of recent apocalyptic-NYC blockbusters. Its handling of questions of race and ethnicity is meticulously oblique, necessarily elliptical. Loktev, a graduate of NYU Film School, has created an ambient essay, meditative and as gripping as a 'Bourne'-trilogy thriller, about female agency, urban performance, the poetics of terror. Beautifully shot and sound-designed, with a remarkable lead performance by newcomer Luisa Williams, the film invites comparison with Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, as well as with the work of Chantal Akerman and Sophie Calle.

The film will be presented by Patrick Deer, Assistant Professor of English literature at NYU and author of the forthcoming 'Culture In Camouflage'.

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