Take Six: Reverse Shot in Time
It is hard not to marvel at how rare it is to be set loose in the dusty archives of someone’s private life, with a narrator whose uncertainty about what to make of it all happens to mirror our own.
As the story of America unfolds, the emblems of civilization—cars, buildings, and above all those black, foreboding power lines—multiply like bacteria, until they are the story. Conceived, in theory, to make life more pleasant, contemporary American society has become a prison...
To view Coppola’s plots as flimsy or nonexistent is to miss the point. The depth of her work is not characterized by meaning, but by organization. The character portraits, spaces, and sounds that comprise her films foster a unified vision of emptiness.
Family Portrait Sittings appeared not long after the emergence of the Boston-centric movement of personal documentary in the late 1960s, a wave distinct from the efforts of earlier avant-garde filmmakers to make a personal cinema, such as Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas.
How soon after our heroine has been so viciously dispatched, turning our experience and emotions upside down, do we find ourselves itching for her body to disappear, even though this means her murderer will most likely escape justice? Just nine and a half minutes. Are we monsters?
Made up of a series of mostly short scenes that combine into a slow bubbling up of existential terror, the film does build to an extended, if narratively abstract, climax, which is then summarily followed by a denouement that manages to conclude the story in a most willfully unsatisfying fashion, while being almost subliminal.
The film focuses on the disruption of linear space and time created by psychic phenomena, allowing Roeg to masterfully explore the possibilities of creating, through camerawork and editing, a thoroughly nonlinear temporality even while depicting a succession of events.