Introduced by Miguel Armas
Los Angeles City Hall is reflected onto the window of the Paradise Motel. It serves as an anchor for this traversal through the natural expanse of California. Here, we discover a restrained psychodrama of play, loss, and the transformation of everyday habitats. Music appears across the interiors and exteriors and speaks of limitlessness and longing.
On the foreground of Cry When It Happens we see two girls laying in inverted position, touching one another without facing each other’s eyes, directing their gaze upwards. The next shot is a continuity error of the image of a cloudy sky. Soon after, a clear sky is shown on a television screen, interrupted by the magnetic strips and the light of a projector. This blue sky, symbolizing a space of liberation or a desire to escape, is the centre of the film, which the film itself eventually erases amid a desert landscape. Cry When It Happens translates into images and sounds a certain experience of the city of Los Angeles, moments of life that are recreated as a world apart, a vague mystery of loneliness and longing.
Laida Lertxundi builds her cinema from shared experiences with friends and acquaintances: those of old records heard at home and of the discovery of Southern California’s landscapes. However, her films are never the direct depiction of these moments: on the contrary, they criticize the suspension of disbelief that dominates narrative movies, ie, the perceptual state that makes us forget the production mechanisms that lead to transparency, to borrow the term from André Bazin. Being so, Lertxundi’s short films are somewhere between a suggestive and abstract emotional spectre, and the formal strategies of structural film (namely the enunciation of the technical principles of cinema and the deconstruction of illusion).
In a cartographic sense, Cry When It Happens is a film about the shift towards wider spaces: in the beginning two boys watch the image of the clear sky on a television in a motel room; then the window of the room reflects Los Angeles’ City Hall, a recognizable image of the city’s downtown combined with the flat blue sky; later on, a series of shots show remote locations like the rocky coast of California and, finally, a desert valley in whose centre the television with the same image of the sky is located. The film explores the vastness of the landscape while it questions its own framing as a form of translating the filmmaker’s gaze upon it (represented by the female figure who observes the ocean waves).
No scene stands out for its particular beauty. Instead, a certain emotion – a state of suspension, of wait, which the very title announces – is constructed through the editing, by which Lertxundi faces the abrupt character of the outside world, and shapes it by creating a series of rhythmic and open relationships between the scenes. The role of Blue Rondos’ song Little Babyis essential in that sense, as the narrative mechanisms are replaced by the debate between sound and image, music and silence, presence and absence, immense and intimate spaces.
Referring simultaneously to the technical nature of the film (to the dialogue between television and celluloid, synched and non-synched sound, etc.) and its emotional essence (the film as a possible set of scattered shots of a melodrama about separation and loneliness in an empty megalopolis), Lertxundi conceives Cry When It Happens as a way to question the relationship between affective states and the spaces in which they are developed, a short-circuit that occurs between the search for a space of freedom and the desire to register it on celluloid.
Camera, Editing, Directing: Laida LertxundiSound: Dan Boer, Lindsey Hoffmann, Laida Lertxundi, Albert Ortega, Lucas QuigleySound mix: Ezra BuchlaMusic: Beethoven, Black Velvet, The Blue Rondos, Laura SteenbergeTypography: Lucas QuigleyWith: Lindsey Hoffmann, Beau Johnson, Laura Merando, Albert Ortega, Tanya Rubbak, Laura SteenbergeLocation: Los Angeles, Benton, Montaña de Oro, San Luis Obispo, California, USAThank you: Thom Andersen, Betzy Bromberg, Mark McElhatten, C.W. Winter