London Brief (1997)

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After quitting the American independent film scene to move to Europe in the mid-1990's, Jon Jost also publicly renounced film itself in favor of the new technology of digital video. This shift in technology inspired a radical change in Jost's style. Abandoning narrative altogether, he began making abstract, experimental features, often focussing on the particular light and compositional possibilities of specific locations. London Brief exploits the various effects that digital video is capable of to create a portrait of London that evokes Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a City and other "city films" of the silent era. Jost has a gift for visual composition, and in London Brief he often creates optical illusions by using windows, mirrors, and other devices to break up the image into multiple, interlocking frames. In one hypnotic sequence, subway riders, who seem to be in the same space, slowly slump forward in sleep, their heads seeming to meet. Only when the train enters a station does it become clear that one of them is a reflection from another car. In another section, Jost manipulates footage of roller bladers in a park until they become streaks of fluorescent color against the dark green background of trees and grass. The care with which Jost chooses his images, and the subtlety of his effects, turns them into something more than mere camera trickery, and while some sequences are more effective than others, and parts run longer than they should, London Brief marks a intriguing departure for Jost and a fascinating visual experience.