28 July 2010

Act of God (Jennifer Baichwal, 2009)

If you have an interest in any of the following things -- the hypnotic prose of writer Paul Auster (the genius behind City of Glass and more recently Invisible), the invigorating experimental music of Fred Frith, the man-meets-nature style of cinema expressed by Koyaanisqatsi or Jennifer Baichwal's stirring previous documentary Manufactured Landscapes, the awesome power of nature, and, above all, the dazzling random phenomenon of lightning -- then I have no hesitation in recommending the cool, mostly astonishing documentary Act of God. The film revolves around a series of interviews with people who have survived lightning strikes, or have otherwise been involved in shocking encounters with this natural event. The interviews are bolstered by wonderful footage of swirling lightning storms and sublime nature, as well as being underscored by Frith's often eerie, moody music.

Coolness in human form.

While not all the interviews are completely gripping -- the movie takes a while to get up to speed -- more than enough of them are, not the least of which are that of a Mexican woman and the tragic fate of her children on a hill during a religious ceremony, as well as a Frenchman who has dedicated his life to operating a museum dedicated to lightning photography. Auster's own concluding monologue is absolutely astonishing -- up there with some of his best writing; I almost wish I could get a copy of it written down -- as he recounts with calm naturalism and mounting tension the fate of him and his friends on a nature excursion during summer camp. Just like a good storm, Act of God ends with one grand crescendo of a climax.

I definitely have a special interest in this movie, given my fascination with nature photography and cinematography and the work of Paul Auster. But even if you don't share my particular inclination towards these things, Act of God gives you something profound over which to ponder while simultaneously thrilling the eye and the ear. A-

Also, please check out Invisible and, especially, City of Glass for some of the most exhilarating writing and storytelling in modern times. But... I suppose that's a whole different post. I also want to check out more of Frith's music now.

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