steve de vos

If I were a filmmaker, or perhaps a video producer I would film (or videotape) street scenes. I have worked it all out apart, unfortunately, from the capital needed to finance it. Even then of course it's not as if the filming would be that easy because a street scene is not something that likes to be captured just like that. One minute it may look nice and interesting and then suddenly it will have turned into a chromatic nightmare, like a Bird Of Paradise on speed. In any case you will still need more than one camera with reels of film or many video tapes plus many still cameras, Hasselbads or Nikons, with a crew and the associated travelling expenses for the overnight stops in strange cities. This, allied with the need to find the perfect street scene, guarantees the difficulty of completing the film.

Perhaps the only way to successfully complete it, is to film forty or fifty street scenes and in the process find the one street scene that you really wanted. The desire for the perfect scene is the same as that which demands perfection in words, women or politicians. Of course that's not how things will ever be and I console myself that the perfect street scene has already been filmed, perhaps in Akermans 'News from Home' or maybe in a Wim Wenders movie or…. oh well, who knows. Choose your own…. either way it may be stored in some 16 MM or 35MM spiral or even a video tape somewhere.

The plan to produce the film is not about the search for the perfect street scene but about the act of symbolic exchange, a gift to the viewers' who know nothing about it. I refer by preference to country people who know nothing about it, at best they see an occasional street scene that is not occluded by trees, clouds and the desert from the over-fertilised fields of industry. Alternatively perhaps all they ever see is someone returning from working in the city or cars leaving, trains passing through, or a small block of flats that they mistakenly identify as urban. A small four lane road, the sound of the motorway just over the hill, in the woods, that sounds like the seashore. The endless horizon of trees and TV Ariels, assuming they are not on cable. The movie would have to be quiet if not absolutely silent (as if silence were not impossible) with only music by perhaps Berg or Reich mixed with the sound of the city streets, a distant barking dog, a child shouting, laughing and the fluttering of an angels wings.

Though empiricism and a story by Leiris, a Swiss army watch and too many café tables, I know that a good street scene cannot last longer than a single cappuccino and a cigarette. Between the climax and the anti, which are the only two things I'd eliminate to ensure that it is only the quiet dreamscape of the endless play of differences. A film, in other words, which you would have once called a documentary. Shown at the Other cinema like Joris Ivens documentary fictions on China. Probably before some Hollywood actress who inevitably emerges naked from the shower - but then people would still be entering the cinema whilst it plays. My film would have printed subtitles which would state - filmed in October 1999 on Kodak 35MM film stock, fixed camera with 35MM focal length at f-stop 8 for 12 minutes. Geography. The audience would be told absolutely nothing beyond this, naturally, which avoids them either leaving or worse still having inessential preconceptions and eating too much popcorn or cheap sweets and slurping coke (as if ignorance would stop them !).

The film would roll and the images gently engrave themselves like a postcard on their retinas. Perhaps the gentle scene would substitute for the mythopoetic moments which we all need but usually don't have.


Steve de Vos - London October 1997

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