Traces/Legacy ★★★½


My capsule review from my NYFF Projections coverage for MUBI:

Scott Stark's newest piece harks back to some of his earliest released films, such as the "Chromesthetic Response Series," in which the filmmaker shot 35mm movie film in a still-image camera, letting the registration and the optical sound strip (dis)organize themselves as they would. Adapting this approach for digital media can't have been easy, but with Traces / Legacy, Stark applies a similar idea under quite different circumstances. The earlier films looked at small items, like a deck of cards, without a broader context. Here, we see close-up patterns—colored lines, hexagons, staggered shapes. Then we begin to suss out what we are looking at. It might be kitchen utensils, such as a whisk, a colander, or a drying rack.

But then we see people, and taxidermied animals, and begin to notice that Stark is shooting inside a sporting goods store for a large portion of the film. So this is a fine example of a renewed or modified structuralist attitude. We begin in a kind of perceptual isolation tank, a sort of riff on Man Ray's cinema, and gradually open outward as Stark shows us the larger world and its relationships. The fundamental strangeness of the stuffed river otter, or the bucket of baseballs, invites reflection, as well as refraction—a commentary on how consumer goods end up before us, and how a disruptive mode of looking can reanimate the dead.