P. Staff, La Nuit Américaine, 2023
There are visual and material dissonances palpable in La Nuit Américaine (American Night) (2023) that holds the work as gothic horror while also wearing its structuralist filmmaking influences unapologetically. The film appears to be shot in an uncanny, unfamiliar kind of twilight. It is unclear if this is shot using night vision technology if the film’s hue has artificially adjusted the moon’s glow, or if we are inside a natural phenomenon of some spectral near night-time or a consequence of the looming climate catastrophe. As the film plays, however, it becomes clear the scenes are shot during the day. People use the beach, planes fly overhead, the streets are busy with life and bustling sociality. The work has been deliberately cast in dark blue light; the brilliant Los Angeles sunshine turned an apocalyptic livor mortis shade.
The body is not centred here in ways we are familiar with in Staff’s other works. But bodies populate this film in ways that zoom out and observe the collective anxiety of sharing space. Bubbling fountains, frothing beers, raging oceans invoke the boundaries of the body, the possibility that we cannot always contain ourselves publicly, that the self is leaky and messy and is inevitably shared with others, that despite polite demands to the contrary, we inevitably contaminate one another. There is an ominousness to this fact and your own relationship to the film is called into question. The fast editing, the darkness punctuated by cyanosis flashes means the film penetrates you. Retinal imprints leave traces long after you finish watching. The darkness forces you to look harder, more fully, more unflinchingly. The uncompromising blue tone affects the hue of the world beyond the screen and colours your reality differently. It is not a film about the body and the violence enacted upon it. It is a film that invites your body to share space with other bodies. To spend time in shared space, drawing attention to the violence, terror and perhaps hopeful possibility of what can be done there.
|Medium||HD video, colour, sound, synchronized light|
|Duration||4 minutes 40 seconds|
|Edition||of 3 + 1 AP|