Wandering Gazes on the Screen: The American Material Environment in James Benning’s Films

Horányi, Péter (2022) Wandering Gazes on the Screen: The American Material Environment in James Benning’s Films. DISEGNO: A DESIGNKULTÚRA FOLYÓIRATA, 6 (1). pp. 54-68. ISSN 2064-7778

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The experimental filmmaker James Benning has a unique way of approaching American life through a radical film language. My paper addresses the question of how American material culture and design appear in Benning’s early work. A recurring feature is his preference for the depiction of landscapes, buildings, objects, and vehicles over human characters that support viewer identification in mainstream documentaries. In the first half of the paper, I present the main stylistic features of Benning’s body of work within the context of structural film and documentary filmmaking. Then I provide a detailed analysis of three of his early films: 11 × 14 (1977), American Dreams: Lost and Found (1984) and Landscape Suicide (1986). I show how Benning was able to create a film language with structural experimentations, long takes, and wide shots that offers a perceptual experience that goes against mainstream narrative film and documentary traditions. Overall, the aim of this study is to present how Benning’s art provides an epistemological insight into American design and material culture of the 1970s and 1980s.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature / nyelvészet és irodalom > PN Literature (General) / irodalom általában > PN1993 Motion Pictures / filmművészet
Depositing User: MTMT SWORD
Date Deposited: 31 Dec 2022 10:20
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2022 10:20

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