Answer Print ★★★½

[7]

Mónica Savirón's Answer Print is a brief little dynamo of formal energy. It seems like a film organized around graphic matches, or linked gestures, or even pitch curves and sound motivics drawn out across multiple shots. But none of these compositional elements is sufficient to exhaustively analyze just how Answer Print works. In fact, there are only two aesthetic aspects of the film that carry through from start to finish. Every shot that Savirón selects bears the red-purple tint of "vinegar syndrome," the chemical decay endemic to poorly kept celluloid. And there is no logical connection between the shots based on their denotative content.

Instead, football coverage collides with 1970s TV commercials, behind-the-scenes technical footage of the TV production process, and scenes that are clearly from old movies -- a ship tossed at sea, some cowboys shooting it out on the prairie, and a young boy with a German accent reading aloud in class and being humiliated. (He pronounces the word 'thick' as 'tick.') Although each of these film segments appears to derive from a particular media moment (the 50s through the 70s, the rise of the "society of the spectacle," the same era that provided most of the material for Bruce Conner's films), there is not a general message to be derived from Savirón's concatenation.

In most instances this would be a problem, an indication of carelessness on the part of the maker. But Savirón's formal game is top notch, and one gets the sense that it is in the terms listed above -- visual rhymes, stutters and loops, audio bridges, and directional movements carrying across edits -- that one shot "answers" the next. This yields purely abstract relationships, such as the landscape at the start of the film paired with the wire mobile. But there are other shot-toggles that seem more pointed, like the melting glacier that alternates with an otherwise nondescript Great Plains landscape.

There aren't enough moments of ecological disaster in Answer Print to suggest that this is Savirón's primary point. But the presence of a sequence like the glacier collapse implies a more general sense of impending decay, as does the red celluloid itself. If Savirón's own print is "answering" anyone or anything, it could be Conner's own A Movie, one of the first associative films composed of found footage. Conner's film was a cry of despair, depicting a planet going to hell while the capitalist world amused itself to death. Savirón's film, by contrast, implies that we've grown accustomed to the disaster -- that we're living in a long apocalypse, and we might do well to sift through the detritus and rebuild.

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