Counting Screen 9 articles

Counting

2015

Counting Poster
  • If the film weren't already screaming Chris Marker's name as a core influence, the final chapter, entitled "Skywriting," receives both a Marker postscript and a Marker dedication. It's the most self-congratulatory segment, featuring on-screen text from Cohen himself as he explains, "I walked into a neighborhood I didn't know, in a city I didn't know," and the poetic pretenses are compounded by a sledgehammer insistence on elusive and irreducible moments as inherently beautiful.

  • In Counting, the silence of the observer is at the heart of even a chapter collecting reflections in New York’s storefront windows, busy and vibrant “natural” double exposures. Unease does swell up in some chapters. Cohen records protests here and there, but more as an audiovisual experience than as reportage or towards any overt political statement.

  • As elusive as the film is, the sheer experience of watching this series of globe-trotting montages is often thrilling in its visual invention and provocative editing juxtapositions. Counting, at least on one lone viewing, is quite the baffling beauty.

  • [Counting practices] the sort of impressionistic, globe-trotting cine-journalism pioneered and perfected by Chris Marker—a debt that the director acknowledges explicitly in the final sequence... But where Marker’s great works A Grin Without A Cat and Sans Soleil were delivery devices for their maker’s eloquent voice-over assessments of history, politics, and culture, Counting eschews narration. Aside from a few judiciously chosen quotes, it seeks to speak entirely through images.

  • Hewing closely to the tradition of documentary as a diaristic essay, Jem Cohen’s Counting moves from New York to Sharjah as the cinema eye ruminates on street life, destruction, displacement and disparate urban portraiture. Divided into 15 chapters, Counting seldom forces any conclusions, drawing on the viewers’ emotional responses to its alternately lyrical structure and literal depictions — the removal of Brooklyn’s iconic Kentile Floors sign among them.

  • At its most potent, pertinent and irreverent, however – and Cohen’s film is for large stretches all of these – the essay film takes aim at the very processes and forces that condition the nature and extent of our everyday struggle for a better way of living. It’s a battlefield, all right.

  • Sometimes the meanings of these fragments unfold clearly; sometimes you need to piece the fragments together, as you would a jigsaw puzzle. Not every chapter has a particularly strong story... Memory is to one what history is to the other: an impossibility.” As Mr. Cohen shifts from one space and time to the next in “Counting,” the filmmaker — who has long been “writing” from the world of appearances with his camera — expresses the melancholy and longing embedded in that impossibility.

  • New York-based artist Jem Cohen has an uncanny ability that tends to evade many would-be essayistic filmmakers, which is to effectively expand the meaning of his footage in its assemblage. Shot diary-style across the world, his new feature, the Chris Marker-inspired travelogue Counting, is intensely intimate, bringing us into his way of looking at the world around him, while inviting the viewer to interact with the sounds and images.

  • I was startled and moved when Counting suddenly took me back to a place I knew: VDNKh, the sprawling Moscow park and exhibition centre that was once a showcase for Soviet industry under Stalin before capitalism transformed it into a fairground and market.

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