Good Luck Screen 10 articles

Good Luck


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  • Another film in parts, Ben Russell’s Good Luck, was the dregs of the section, a bifurcated work that begins at a large subterranean copper mine in Bor, Serbia, then moves to the compare-and-contrast setting of an open-air collective gold-panning operation in Suriname... Russell’s film suggests a wariness towards its subjects that’s equal parts awed and awkward.

  • Part of a tremendous movie is better than nothing. For those wondering why experimental filmmakers still prefer film stock (besides the obvious technical advantages when filming inhospitable environments), look no further; it’s hard to think of a digital image that could evoke the extreme isolation of the mine as vividly as the camera simply running out of film while riding in a mine cage back up to the surface.

  • It would be easy for Good Luck to explore these two mining communities and their struggles and be done with it. Russell is an exceptional interlocutor, and has an exceptional gift for depicting both the arduousness and the applied skill of labor, its drudgery and its dignity. This might have been enough, but instead, Good Luck takes an additional step to individuate these men, rather than leave them suspended in the collective mass.

  • With its Latin roots indicating a vision of thought, the psychedelic must be understood as, in at least one sense, analogous with art. Both count their highest achievement as the inducement of reflection. Borrowing from the surrealist tradition, we might take the perfect psychedelic image to be two mirrors gazing directly upon one another... Russell’s subject here is labour; to reflect it so fully is a vital achievement.

  • Russell’s subjects instruct and opine to camera throughout, as well as appearing solo in interspersed camera tests, self-taped on scratchy, evocative black and white stock. These beautiful micro-portraits divide the lengthy landscape segments, as people and place, character and creator all become intermingled and inseparable.

  • Good Luck paints Earth as a universe of binaries powered by an endless cycle of man's toil, where workers dig deep into the land for granule minerals that once guaranteed future wealth. Somehow it manages to do so without the glorification of labor or the conditions that necessitate its existence. Left to reckon with this cosmic sameness inextricable from global difference, if I must be honest, I am still a bit stunned.

  • Time seems suspended in the cramped and dark interiors of the mine, while the open, sunny vistas of the second part lend a languorous air to the workers. In both cases, the ambience exerts a power over these men beyond anything we learn from the dialogue. Russell’s questions are met with clichéd responses—as if, wary of this outsider with the movie camera, they are reluctant to volunteer too much. Nevertheless, aware that they work for powers beyond their control, their demeanor speaks volumes.

  • Mirrored in both subject and structure, and bookended by a pair of musical sequences, the film’s two parts form an impressively symmetrical whole as Russell’s capitalist critique finds palpable expression through the labourers’ shared experiences. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it Russell’s magnum opus to date, and an easy highlight of the autumn festival season, regardless of where or how one chooses to categorise it.

  • Watching these men smoke and laugh with each other stuns and humbles. Their leisure, so hard fought, every cigarette under a thousand feet of rock, briefly stems the tide of a hopeless, mechanical dive towards the end of industry. Russell stares long into the face of the casually oppressed, finding tired hope in each rock-bitten face.

  • Russell is a master cinematographer who moves with and around his subjects in long takes as they work. He offers us a sense of these worlds where vulnerable men with violently vibrating machines force the obstinate earth to yield its ore and in the process form community. Between scenes of work, Russell places almost tender moving black and white close-up portraits of the individual miners, seeming to look into the camera, at us, and into themselves in moments of respite.

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