La Nuit Américaine

Country: USA
Duration: 12 mins
|5 Seconds
Sound: Stereo
Available Format/s: HD Digital file / DCP
Original Format: 16mm Film


Staff’s film, La Nuit Américaine, takes its title from the French term for the analog film technique of shooting by day, with a complex set of lenses and filters, to simulate a deep black-blue night. Though used frequently in early Hollywood films, the deception was often compromised, giving away the trick—the sun creeping into the frame, a reflection that wouldn’t occur in the moon’s soft light. Staff uses the technique, but does nothing to hide that it was filmed during the daytime: people play golf, birds sing, shoppers consume, and families gather under sun umbrellas at the beach. The film’s bald duplicity combines with its sense of increasing anxiousness. It seems to ask: What would happen if we lived in an eternal twilight, if time stuttered, and day became indistinguishable from night? Trash and nature, animals and humans fill the screen as if assemblies of the living and undead have come to congregate there. Without words or narration, the film’s juddering soundtrack of ambient noise, laughter, violas, and cellos, at times rendered synthetic and strange, accompany a quickening of image rhythm and cuts wherein the quotidian slides into horror or discomfort. As the film flits from darkness and emptiness to density and abstraction, it ends in a crescendo irradiating the entire room with an image of glaring sunlight and strobing, syncopated flashes.

More works by P. Staff

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