Tag Archives: long takes

Meta-Review: “Ramendan” (2013) — Duration as Subject

10 Nov

Film Review: Ramendan

directed by Jason Fox

starring: Steven Lee Lawson

rating: **(*)

With an ASL (average shot length) of 4 minutes, extensive use of improvisation from his actors, and implementation of once-cutting edge editing techniques (sped-up film, intrusive overlaid text), the short film “Ramendan” shows director Jason Fox’s indebtedness to the obscure nouvelle vague auteur Jacques Rivette‘s working methods.

The film opens with a breathtakingly virtuosic 7 minute take wherein Steven Lee Lawson, a clearly non-professional actor, struggles to concoct an edible dish out of several unlikely ingredients provided for him by the director. Many filmmakers in the fledgling genre often called “YouTube video” would edit down or script such a performance for the sake of coherence, but Fox is unafraid to alienate the viewer in his search for a kind of verity and intimacy rarely seen outside of such contemporary masterpieces as “Bowl of Gravy” (2012).

As in Rivette’s 13 hour masterwork “Out 1” (1971), the long take here allows the viewer to grow bored with the actors, to become annoyed by them. Working with this kind of length, the actors can really put across their neuroses. Even with Lawson’s break of character late in the film, Fox mercilessly keeps the camera rolling and allows the viewer to share the awkwardness so common in daily life.

still from “Ramendan” (2013)

The director’s own innovation is his direct intervention in the film in an “intermission” 10 minutes in, and again with a kind of postscript. Introducing himself by name, Fox speaks directly to the camera in a kind of mimicry of an infomercial for an unspecified product in the form of the titular concocted fasting holiday.

Questions remain. Who is the third character, referred to variously as Jesus or Koshan? What does he mean by such remarks as, “this is what you guys do on weekends?”? What is the relationship between commerce and the preparation of unpalatable foodstuffs? Fox keeps these questions open, preferring to give the viewer something to chew on for a long time and then spit out.

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