October 24, 2015 -- This is like a travelog, with street scenes and some interiors shot in New York City (including Brooklyn and Coney Island) Istanbul, Turkey, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, Cairo, Egypt, London, England, the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and Porto, Portugal. There are also some scenes shot on airliners.
The film gives us a idea of what life is like in these places, with an eye towards the people, dogs, cats, birds, architecture and transportation of these places. There are quite a few scenes on trains and subways. There is no narration. The audio is mostly ambient sounds, including casual conversations. There are some audio excerpts from various sources, including audio related to a Congressional hearing on the National Security Agency's collection of data from ordinary citizens. It includes James Clapper's (Director of National Intelligence) famous quote about answering questions in the “most truthful, or least untruthful manner,” that he could in public.
There is also some music on the soundtrack, including some street and subway performers. There is an excerpt from a recorded lecture on dark energy by Dr. Michael Turner, and a few other audio clips. Why is this film called Counting? Maybe because there actually is counting in the lyrics of a soundtrack song, “Minding One's Business” by a duo named “The Evens.”
But mostly, as you would expect, this is about the visuals. The camera is still quite a lot of the time, with people coming and going in front of it. One interesting scene uses window reflections to give an interesting multi-dimensional view of a busy street and sidewalk. A variety of camera techniques are used to provide unusual perspectives.
There are also some scenes from political protests, The People's Climate March and Black Lives Matter. In another New York City scene, there is the uneasy sight of police in body armor carrying machine guns, standing guard on an ordinary-looking street. There are sleeping dogs, prowling cats, strutting pigeons and seagulls here and there. At the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, we see the fourth and last version of the enigmatic painting, “The Black Square” by Kazimir Malevich (who painted his first version of this 100 years ago).
A lot of the scenes take place during cold weather. Snow is falling, and is on the ground in many scenes, including scenes shot at Coney Island, when the amusement parks and businesses are closed and the boardwalk is all but deserted. Seagulls squat on the ground next to the cold ocean, waiting for better weather. Another scene is shot at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow, which includes stuffed dogs who were once unwilling space pioneers in the early days of space flight.
The film is organized into 15 chapters. One, titled “Next and Last Stop” includes that cold subway trip to Coney Island, and appropriately enough, a large graveyard. If this is a journey through life, it is certainly a fragmented and uneven one. The images are interesting, sometimes beautiful and sometimes informative, but what does it all amount to? Maybe it is a meditation on Malevich's notion of a victory of darkness over the sun. I couldn't say. It wasn't as hard to watch as some films I've seen lately, but it wasn't really an attention grabber, either. It is more along the lines of mildly interesting. This film rates a C.
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