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The Art of Destruction

On one hand, Decasia—like Dutch filmmaker Peter Delpeut's less abstract, more literal Lyrical Nitrate—can be taken as a cautionary advertisement for film preservation. Indeed, Anthology is showing Decasia with Morrison's 1996 short The Film of Her, an imaginary romance about the preservation of paper prints in the Library of Congress, celebrating what the archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai calls the "monumental necropolis of precious documents." On the other hand, Decasia is founded on a deep aesthetic appreciation for decay. ("Cinema is the art of destroying moving images," per the gnomic Cherchi Uchai.) The solarization, the morphing, the lysergic strobe effects on which the movie thrives, are as natural as the photographic image itself.

Pure, if perverse, Nature Channel pantheism: Ferretis in Japón
photo: Film Forum
Pure, if perverse, Nature Channel pantheism: Ferretis in Japón


Written and directed by Carlos Reygadas
Vitagraph/American Cinematheque
March 19 through April 1, at Film Forum

A film by Bill Morrison
March 19 through 25, at Anthology

As Decasia continues, the calligraphy of decay grows increasingly hallucinatory and catastrophic. The sea buckles. Flesh melts. A boxer struggles against the disintegration of the image. Wall Street is half consumed in flames. A dozen little parachutes dot the cracked sky. A group of nuns traverse a courtyard that frames an Italian landscape in severe perspective, evoking a Renaissance vision of the Last Judgment. Japón has been termed Buddhist in its contemplative acceptance of change; Decasia seems more Hindu in its awesome spectacle of violent flux. The film is a fierce dance of destruction. Its flame-like, roiling black-and-white inspires trembling and gratitude.

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