The City and the Cities

A luminous jumble, Jem Cohen’s latest experiment in non-narrative urban portraiture captures, in its beauty and inadequate moods and consistent epiphanies, lots of contradictory truths of city life itself. Adhering to up 2013’s Museum Hours, a fiction film steeped in the magnificent honest truth of Austria’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, Cohen’s Counting is his the majority of ambitious production yet, surveying in 15 chapters fresh particulars of Brand-new York, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Istanbul and various other marvelous, inconstant places. Just what surprises (a little) and fascinates (a lot) are the town-to-town commonalities Counting invites you to appraise. The opening scenes of Brand-new York simply last winter whirl the senses: Here, in unfussy you-are-there photography, is a gray overpass, snow falling on a Bowery restaurant-supply shop, a blood-flecked paper towel on a well-grimed floor tile, protesters shouting, “I can’t breathe!”

Here’s Douwe Blumberg’s America’s Response Monument, that equine sculpture regarding our resilience that’s been simply outside One Globe Trade Focus due to the fact that 2011, fenced off from the public throughout the endless construction. That unfinished project feels of a piece along with the fantastic yellow excavator machine that, elsewhere, Cohen’s camera glimpses in between the roofs of row houses. Enjoy a snake shedding its skin, the city appears to be dying as it provides birth to itself, a phenomenon Cohen, endlessly inquisitive, observes again and again, across the world. Just what to make of the means Blumberg’s sculpture, which is tied to our current national pride, is inaccessible, while those Cohen shows us in Moscow, honoring last century’s suggestion of a workers’ paradise, stand barely noticed out in the open, surrounded by damp leaves throughout a gray, grave Russian autumn?

In all of the cities, Cohen studies housing, the methods we’re stacked atop one another, and in many, he receives caught up along with pet dog life: cats, of course, and, the majority of memorably, a Labrador-Enjoy mutt status still and silent beneath urine-yellow Istanbul streetlights. His approach to documenting an area comes close to the majority of of our methods to joining one—he films Just what he notices, where he goes, the sorts of points you could see if you trudged through these blocks one night after job as soon as you weren’t looking at your phone. Considerably of Cohen’s the majority of arresting footage comes from commutes. He’ll film his ascent of an MTA escalator and train his camera from a train—or, in passages of shivery tactile beauty, out the windows of planes and cars, especially throughout weather of note. In a automobile in a pre-dawn snowstorm, the window comes to be as arresting as the Globe outside it: In watery blue and gold, the city appears to melt versus the glass.

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Courtesy of Cinema Guild

Courtesy of Cinema Guild


Counting was directed by Jem Cohen.

For all of that, Cohen’s film follows no set approach. Occasionally, he’ll risk didacticism: He scores scenes of Brand-new Yorkers reflected in shop windows, speaking on their phones, to audio of congressional hearings regarding NSA spying. Sometimes, he’ll protect against showing us common things, the life and traffic and architecture whose drift stands as synecdoche for the bigger place, and indulge in neighborhood color: Putin and Stalin impersonators functioning Russian crowds Enjoy Times Square Batmen or a wintry reverie at Coney Island. Mostly, though, he trusts you to interpret Just what he’s showing you, to take it in as you could on among those days as soon as schedule falls away and you’re overwhelmed by every little thing that has actually been built—and is still being built—all of about you.

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