Sunday, January 8, 2012

Patrick Keiller's new film "Robinson in Ruins" at Anthology Film Archives: Jan 12 - Jan 18

Other than Grant Gee's "Patience (After Sebald)" I can think of no other documentary (or film essay as these are increasingly called) that captures the sense of an individual, a community, history itself, disappearing into the landscape it occupied. Haunting in the deepest, most literal sense. I came to "Robinson in Ruins" through the circuitous path of edition 17 of the Tate Papers the essay specifically on this work and The Military Pastoral Complex which then led to Patrick Keiller and his third documentary in the Robinson series and the corresponding three year research project "The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image". Judging from the heady mix just implied by the titles of those essays alone, I knew the film was going to be a work not easily quantified, much less summarized. After seeing it, that's a task I still find beyond me. Somehow others have done it (and pretty brilliantly) in the pages of Sight & Sound and the Guardian UK. Both of which noted the correlation I saw with the shared territory of saturating nostalgia, melancholy and surrealist blurring of personal fiction and history found in the 'haunted landscapes' of W.G. Sebald. Chances to see it have been nearly as elusive as it's subject. The film played in last year's New York Film Festival and again this month in that city of cities as part of the Patrick Keiller Retrospective at Anthology Film Archives, but I fear that most others like myself, will have to make due with the UK release by BFI Films since Robinson's final exploration has yet to find distribution stateside.