A surprisingly rich bounty of cinema awaits visitors to Washington D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum - upstairs at the end of a gallery survey of work by the late sculptor Anne Truitt screens ANNE TRUITT working, by filmmaker Jem Cohen. The work captures Truitt working in two milieu, and against a soundtrack of Truitt's ruminations on her work Cohen frames her materials and sculptures in compelling vertical tableau (matching the upward thrust of Truitt's most remarkable sculptures). Each small shot is perfectly chosen, with materials taking on their own independent aesthetic life (jars of paint are labelled with the titles of the work they'll eventually color). I'm not certain how it would function independently, but at the end of the Hirshhorn's retrospective it offers a powerful summing up and expansion of the themes of Truitt's work and life, assimilated and expanded upon by a knowing, simpatico cinematic artist.
Downstairs, in the museum's tiny Black Box space, Phoebe Greenberg's remarkable, award-winning short NEXT LEVEL mesmerized and (in a few cases) sickened its audience, but its powerful and sensual parable of endless consumption was one of the more efficiently devastating short films your proprietor has ever seen. A cadre of aristocrats dine on a sumptuous and endless feast, accompanied by chamber musicians and attended by a corps of waiters, presided over by an ominous and all-knowing maitre d'. The descent of the feast (the exact depths of which must be seen to be believed) offered a knowing mirror to our own worst excesses, and a dire (though never pedantic) warning of their eventual outcome.
As is often the case in our nation's capital, the most compelling cinematic offerings are screening on gallery walls. The one-two punch offered by Cohen and Greenberg is the best double-feature running in D.C. right now, at no admission charge and of a combined running time of half an hour. Art films in many senses, and earnestly recommended by your proprietor.