1 April 2014

Bradford International Film Festival: Uncharted States of America - Twenty Cigarettes (2011)


Genre:
Documentary
Venue:
Bradford International Film Festival
Review Date:
30th March 2014
Director:
James Benning
Cast:
Sompot Chidgasornpongse, Francesca Sloane, Thom Andersen

With this year’s Bradford International Film Festival showcasing a selection of films from visual artist James Benning in their Uncharted States of America: James Benning Tribute, Twenty Cigarettes has the dubious distinction of being the festivals more ‘accessible’ starting point for anyone interested in discovering his work. As the first Benning film I have seen, I am left wondering, if this is accessible, how abstract are the other films in his oeuvre? That being said, Twenty Cigarettes is a thoroughly fascinating and absorbing piece of conceptual art. The work showing twenty people smoking a single cigarette, the length of each shot determined by how long it took them to smoke it. As Benning as said, “I wanted to do a portrait film with extended takes. Smoking came into it later, as the ploy to get people to stand still and not be totally conscious of being filmed, although a big part of Twenty Cigarettes is that very self-consciousness of a person in front of a camera and how that changes over time.” This quote gets straight to the essence, as the most interesting aspect is watching, voyeuristically, each participant perform for the camera. Whether their performance is done consciously or subconsciously, watching them is a captivating experience.

★★★★

Shane James

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