Circle’s Short Circuit + a postscript

From the Chicago Reader (September 17, 1999). Thanks to the courtesy of Tom Colley at the Video Data Bank, I’ve finally been able to see this strange film again, almost 23 years later, and have added a few second impressions and second thoughts. — J.R.


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This 1998 Caspar Stracke feature is one of the rare experimental films in 35-millimeter, and though I could preview it only on video, it kept me fascinated even in that format. Stracke describes it as moving in a circle with neither a beginning nor an end; in the version I saw, the credits come in the middle. A lecture on the philosophical and psychoanalytic implications of the invention of the telephone by theorist Avital Ronell eventually turns into a story in black and white about a woman who has a lotus blossom growing in her left lung; at different times this film comes across as documentary, essay, performance art, and silent throwback (complete with intertitles and irises), and the capabilities and rhetoric associated with both computers and VCRs play a part in the continuously shifting and evolving discourse. Stracke will be present at the screening. Kino-Eye Cinema at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee, Friday, September 17, 8:00, 773-293-1447. — Jonathan Rosenbaum

May 5, 2022: Having now reseen the film, once again in digital form, I can’t understand how I could have written the film’s “silent throwback” (i.e., pastiche of an arty silent film was “complete with intertitles” when the periodic cuts to frames for intertitles are purposefully left blank as part of the strategy to remain wordless. Either Strake has revised the film since I first saw it or I was nodding at the switch. More generally, the film’s arsenal of strategies to be or become creatively incoherent works positively at some times, more negatively at others–a kitchen-sink policy that drifts from provocation to doodling and back again while seemingly indulging in countless forms of image manipulation for its own sake. Much of my original fascination remains, though there are times when the random effects threaten to overwhelm the intellectual content.

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