LET EACH ONE GO WHERE HE MAY (Ben Russell; USA/ Suriname; 2009)
Oh, how it's easy to get it wrong, sometimes. Often the first judgment of a film is reasonably accurate – you know whether the film is going to float into the upper echelons of your Pantheon Of Cinema Masterpieces, or descend into the flaming bowels of Screen Hell. But then sometimes one's judgment is addled, influenced, or off in a corner talking to itself maniacally.
Sometimes I get food rage. If I haven't eaten in a while, and I'm getting crazy-hungry, I become grumpy, loopy, and uncommunicative, all in one go. Pity the poor film that has encountered me when I'm in food-rage-mode. Other times, I've over-indulged on cinema, and the film suffers because I can no longer watch with happy ready-and-waiting eyes. In those moments, I feel jaded and cynical, contemplating my impending and necessary cold-turkey from cinema (maybe go for a run, or read a book, or have a beer, or tape my eyelids shut). And other times again, I just wasn't ready for what I was watching, and got all cross and annoyed for feeling stupid, and therefore got stroppy at the film, when in fact it probably wasn't all that bad.
I'm not sure which brain-fried example suits my experience of viewing Ben Russell's Let Each One Go Where He May about 4 months ago, but I feel like saying 'sorry' to the film now. I was too hard on it initially – I'm usually quite at home inside a film that let's me drift, but for some reason I felt underwhelmed by this film. But the dear wee thing has clung to my memory, yelling “love me!” Over time I've replayed many sequences again and again in my mind, and have found myself almost missing the film, as if I need to be there again. Tracking the movement from place to place of two Surinamese Maroon brothers, (from their home village, to the busy streets of the capital city Paramaribo, via a cramped bus journey, through to various work sites, and finally paddling on a river), the film is composed of thirteen long takes, and each take it exquisitely shot. In my haze when I first saw it, I took the camera-work for granted, but having watched some segments online recently, the movement of the camera is graceful, dynamic, and purposeful. One segment that haunts the memory starts with the camera tracking a path in a quarry, following no-one and nothing except the texture and undulations of the dirt-path itself. After having spent about an hour following the brothers, it's a strange sensation to be left alone on a path, feeling as if you're traversing it yourself. Russell lets this slow meander across the dirt-path last for what feels like three, maybe more, minutes before a worker finally crosses the path and we have someone to follow. In this section, one experiences a moment of encounter unlike any other in cinema.
If I ever get the chance to see this film again, I'm there, with bells and whistles and other bits'n'pieces on. I must remember to eat and sleep before the film, though.