No Context: Empire II Screens, Thurston Moore Scores


Empire II
Gershwin Hotel
Tuesday, April 29

What else could possibly represent the Tribeca Film Festival’s odd combination of real estate speculation, downtown nostalgia, self-mythology, and liquid assets better than a Warhol-checking film from the one-time maker of Blank Generation, shot out of the casement window of his Manhattan apartment? Amos Poe, standing before a clutch of vaguely affluent Tuesday-nighters in the converted lobby of the Gershwin Hotel, wears star-freckled pajama pants as he introduces his “no budget, no wave” version of Rear Window: Empire II, after Warhol’s eight-hour original. Poe’s film—a year’s worth of footage compressed into three hours, with all the day and night and snow, spring, and rain the interval entailed—simulates a wandering but comfortably ensconced Flatiron eye, shot out of some seriously sizeable windows, often past a varied and pleasingly fresh array of flowers that share the sill with his camera.

If Warhol’s unblinking Empire was stubbornly about the minutes you passed watching it, or the minutes you watched passing it, Empire II evokes the feeling really good real estate gives you: being completely impervious to time. Poe’s idyll is unmolested by the pedestrians he occasionally deigns to film, the cars that zip by them, the clocks that turn in a nearby tower. Clouds race by, their shadows with them, but the view remains eternal.

Preempting what for the ages will supposedly be “a richly layered soundtrack of songs and city noises” are, tonight, Thurston Moore, Matt Hayner, and Tom Surgal, improvising accompaniment directly in front of, and a little bit below, Poe’s film. They seem to be present mostly to alleviate boredom, which they do: Moore’s cunning abstractions match perfectly with the hexagonal lights of cars that cross the screen, the band’s improv keeping time with Amos’s cut-for-cut-for-cut eye on the motion outside. Surgal, facing forward, isn’t even watching the film. As it speeds by behind the trio, they appear to be working in slow motion, another ironic reduction in scale—if the Empire State building can play prop, why not three grizzled no-wavers?

Empire II plays on Friday, May 2 @ Pace University and Saturday, May 3 @ Village East Cinema.