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Published on Sep 28, 2008
I was struck by Robert Breer's fascination with the juxtaposition of motion and stillness and the space between them. He also experiments with variants of a sort of visual logic to motivate his cuts and transitions. His deconstruction of the cinematic illusion to its most fundamental building block explores the very essence of the art form. I tried to capture the spirit of Breer in my short film Paparazzo. After a quick nod to the swinging hexagonal cylinder of 69 (1968), the piece falls into a rhythm of alternations between stillness and motion. By reducing some passages to a series of freeze-frames and massaging others into an artificial fluidity, I sought to emphasize the contrast in the dialectical pairing. While some cuts are motivated by a continuity of motion (i.e. chronological), others are based purely on visual relationships or free association. Breer often plays with these types of freewheeling transitions.
However, just as Valie Export appropriates the techniques of Structuralist film in service of her social commentary, I employed Breer's innovations to pursue my own objectives. I intended Paparazzo to work on several levels at once, but not all of them are recognizable a priori.
On one hand, it is a sort of visual etymology of the term "paparazzi." Given the word's origins, I felt it was fitting to depict its definition and history cinematically. Though it's not exactly a universal language, it is a language told entirely through images. Furthermore, I wanted to unify the formal aspects of the work as tightly as possible to emanate the central themes from its very being. The soundtrack is an instrumental mix of a 1996 hip hop single entitled "Paparazzi." The editing style mimics the action of a camera, flashing and freezing instantaneous slices of reality.
The piece can also be read as a retelling of La Dolce Vita through the eyes of Paparazzo, a decidedly minor character in the film. To this end, I made him the only character with the autonomous agency to move his body—the only one "alive." The others rely on his camera to reanimate their "dead" images. When he does move, however, it is only to reload his camera, position himself to capture his subject, or race from one location of interest to the next. So even his ability to move is subjugated to his identity as a celebrity photographer. While the others rely on Paparazzo to animate them, the only thing that animates him is the opportunity to do so.