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Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen

Year: 1974
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 268 min
Director: Michael Snow
Producer: Michael Snow
Writer: Michael Snow
Cinematographer: Babette Mangolte, Michael Snow
Editor: Michael Snow
Sound: Michael Snow
Cast: Dennis Burton, JIm Murphy, Jonas Mekas, Annette Michelson
Production Company: Michael Snow

Described (rather cheekily) by director Michael Snow as a musical comedy, this deft probing of sound/image relationships is one of his wittiest, most entertaining and philosophically stimulating films. In his words, the film “derives its form and the nature of its possible effects from its being built from the inside, as it were, with the actual units of such a film, i.e. the frame and the recorded syllable. Thus its ‘dramatic’ element derives not only from a representation of what may involve us generally in life but from considerations of the nature of recorded speech in relation to moving light-images of people.’”

Snow’s first “talking picture,” the film is divided into approximately twenty sections tied together by thematic rather than narrative concerns. Aside from its most prominent theme – the relationship of the film’s sounds to its images – its concern with memory and the different uses of the word/sound “for/four/fore” is explored. Indeed, the meanings of words and their sounds are played with at length; the film is awash with various puns, quotes and wordplay, which is hinted at in the title (Wilma Schoen is an anagram of Michael Snow) as well as in the cast credits (many of the several dozen names listed – such as Nice Slow Ham, Seminal Chow, Show Me A Ling and Lemon Coca Wish – are anagrams for Michael Snow).

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