Some movies and short films manage to make me feel what borders on an out-of-body experience. When I finish watching them I feel dizzy, out of place, thrust into a foreign environment. The whole world takes on a vibrancy; it is as if matter trembles under my gaze.
One such movie was Bright Star, a movie about the poet John Keats. I think the otherworldly feeling of that film was due to the cinematography done by Greig Fraser. He was not very well known at that time but Fraser recently won an Oscar for Zero Dark Thirty.
Recently I found a new favorite: filmmaker Kahlil Joseph. Joseph is a master of the short film genre. He does a lot of “music videos” but his films deserve more credit than most music videos. Joseph’s emotional films have a reach-down-into-your-soul-and-pull-you-inside-out kind of feel.
One of his recent shorts, "Until the Quiet Comes" is a short film featuring music by Flying Lotus, a musician from Los Angeles:
The film received an award at last year’s Sundance festival. The piece is a captivating and absorbing commentary on gang-life in
Los Angeles. At the same
time that Joseph opens up the theme of violence in our urban cities, he also
explores the supernatural. He does this in a way that is not in-your-face
or obvious. He is subtle but at the same time, it’s just impossible to watch
this short film and not think of the supernatural dimension of earthly life.
I spent some time watching several of his short films online. One of my favorites, Wildcat, was set in
(the best state in the US), and explores the all-black rodeo subculture. It’s gorgeous, mysterious
and entrancing. He also did a short for W Hotels.
After I got over my initial distaste for the commercial aspect of the project,
I fell in love with the film’s mystifying feel and the poetry of motion that
characterizes Joseph’s films and, as W Hotels probably hoped, I now want to go to the Maldives for vacation.
I think my least favorite video was the collaboration that Kahlil Joseph did with Seu Jorge, the Brazilian musician who did the soundtrack for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Bill Murray. I really wanted to like it. What could be better than these two getting together? But this is one of the rare shorts that Kahlil has done with dialogue and I was disappointed. The words seemed to steal the subtlety right out of his filmmaking. But it’s ok, Seu Jorge still does the best covers of David Bowie I have ever heard.
Anyway, I digress… You may wonder why a nun is writing about these things. I am convinced that one of the fundamentals in a successful New Evangelization is beauty. Subtle beauty that plunges the modern mind into contemplation. Subtle beauty that gently, quietly points to our Creator.
If you know any artists who fill the world with beauty, please share in the comments!