One Way Boogie Woogie and 27 Years Later
In 1977, concerned about the decaying nature of his native Milwaukee, filmmaker James Benning shot One Way Boogie Woogie, an hour long film composed of 60 shots of industrial urban landscape: smokestacks, sidewalks, three Volkswagens, people few and far between, an animal here and there. In characteristic fashion, Benning's apparently simple, static shots are exercises in meticulous painterly composition, and their careful sequencing ensures that the director's playful humour is given full expression. His most well-known film, Boogie Woogie was canonized as one of the definitive structuralist films – a surprisingly personal, affecting work from one of America's most revered experimental filmmakers.
Presented along with Boogie Woogie is 27 Years Later, in which Benning revisits his earlier masterwork in a characteristically unique manner. For 27 Years Later, Benning returned to Milwaukee to shoot 'the same film again'. The shot by shot re-staging uses very obviously different stock - the colours are brighter, there's a distinctly modern tone. Buildings are showing their age, or gone; people likewise. Seen together, these two films offer a cogent illustration of how America has changed in the intervening years, fraying in places, gentrified in others. Benning's method, and his affinity with his subjects is extraordinary - as if he completely absorbs the landscape, imbues it with geo-political and cultural relevance, and re-presents it to us in a striking mix of formal rigour and mischievous invention. Since premiering to great acclaim at festivals around the world, the two films have been screened together, offering audiences a fascinating, unique experience of change and progress in America. (James Benning, 1977/2006, 16mm, 120 min.)