February 23-24, 1979
Mouches Volantes Four Shadows
Gottheim had barely finished Horizons before launching into a second feature film, Mouches Volantes. Until Four Shadows, Mouches Volanteswas, by far, Gottheim's most intensive engagement with the nature of film sound. In his second feature Gottheim presents a series of seven edited passages of visual imagery, much of which involves members of his immediate family, photographed around their home in Binghamton, N.Y., and during a vacation in Florida. These visual passages (most of them are quite beautiful to look at, incidently) are separated from one another by passages of dark leader and arranged 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. The sound track is 41/2-minutes of reminiscences about blues singer Blind Willie Johnson by his widow Angelina Johnson, edited from a Folkways record. The 41/2-minute track is repeatedly juxtaposed with the passages of visuals so that during the course of the film, we see each section of visuals both in silence and in conjunction with Angelina Johnson's comments (specifically, we first hear her reminiscences with group 2 of the visuals, then with groups 4, 6,7,5,3, and l).
By painstakingly joining the sound track to the visuals so as to develop a maximum number of relationships between them, Gottheim created an experience which allows the listener-viewer to examine a wide range of ways in which formal and representational aspects of photographed imagery can interact with formal and representational aspects of recorded sound and with silence. Because the visuals and sounds are so different from one. another, many of these interactions are quite tentative and subtle (the title of the film refers to a certain visual event in the human eye which exists just at the edge of our normal conscious visual perceptions); nevertheless, Mouches Volantes offers the viewer a web of subtle relationships which are interesting to explore.
While Mouches Volantes required Gottheim to pay close attention to the subtlest nuances of the passages of sounds he had decided to juxtapose with the seven passages of visuals, his original decision to choose a single passage of sounds, and then repeat it, inevitable limited the extent to which the film could explore sound itself. It was not until Four Shadows that Gottheim was able to bring to film the same range of exploration which has consistently characterized his visuals. In the new film Gottheim has not only given us a work in which the sound track is equal to the visuals in power, in suggestiveness, and in subtlety; he has also accomplished a fusion of the two which is so complete that when one leaves the theater, an effort is required to remember what was seen and what was heard.
— Scott MacDonald
This program has been funded in part by the NEA and Afterimage/Novemberl978