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Ramapo Central

Margaret Salmon

USA, 2003
8 minutes, 14 seconds, Colour and B&W, Sound, 4:3
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file

The 3rd filmic portrait in Salmon’s series of American typographies, Ramapo Central is a feminist exploration of female middle class identity as it depicts the real and imagined life of a middle aged working woman, a receptionist.

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Initially silent, the image shifts between colour and black and white, eventually moving into a soundtrack with the woman’s voice as she works as a telephone representative at the Ramapo Central employment agency. As we listen to her obliging and courteous rapport with her clients, the artist starts to develop her images as aesthetic and narrative portraits of everyday life, using the soundtrack to break the linear development of the film. Salmon documents the woman’s domestic work and daily routine with wide shots, close-ups and long takes. This calls to mind an interesting contrast, a friction between a sparingly applied but intensive use of colour (reminiscent of American, golden age Technicolor films) and the hard-edged black and white sequences recalling the history of American “author” film and Italian neo-realism.

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In terms of cinema, Salmon’s interest is centred primarily on male or female portraits and character sketches. She draws portraits in film, emphasising the repetitiveness of mundane work and seriality in sound and image. As such, her characters function as immediate, not necessarily directly recognisable archetypes. In using the narrative structure while giving the impression of documentation, Salmon plays upon not only cinematic models but draws a reference to figures and characters in literature.