I have known Dan Dickerson for over a decade, he was my first significant collaborator in film. Aesthetically our development has taken us down separate paths, but his work has continued to express genuine innovation and a rather specific sense of humor. His output has been sporadic, but the quality has been consistent. That he still has yet to earn a reputation as a significant filmmaker in the greater Philadelphia area is simply the product of the established modes of exhibition in Philadelphia. This shortcoming on the behalf of the Philadelphia film scene is precisely what Shooting Wall, a local filmmakers cooperative, aims to remedy.
On Monday I was lucky to receive a DVD copy of Dan Dickerson’s latest little opus Form & Repetition (2013) from the filmmaker himself. Dickerson’s film opened Shooting Wall’s Views From The Underground series this year, and one would be hard pressed to find a better film with which to launch the series.
Like Dickerson’s other films, particularly Midnight Heat (2010), Form & Repetition does not cater to the film’s narrative construction but exists rather as a simultaneous meditation on montage, rendering the film semi-reflexive in form, going further to augment original scenes with appropriated footage arranged to construct visual puns. But unlike the genre narrative of Midnight Heat, Form & Repetition’s narrative is loose, jumping from vignette to vignette on grounds of thematic similarity, charting a “day in the life” of a handful of physical media profiteers. These characters, which speak primarily through voice over, lament the direction cinema and particularly cinematic exhibition has taken in the last ten years, raising the bigger question as to why film and video artists have conformed to these new digital platforms that are advocated by only on the strength of corporate America.
In this respect one cannot take Dan Dickerson as a filmmaker who contributes to the mass of narrative and wholly reflexive experimental films or cine-essays, but as their staunchest critic and commentator, who one-ups other critics such as myself by making his arguments not in the written word but in the medium itself. So it becomes darkly comical that Dickerson’s film Form & Repetition should open a showcase for Philadelphia’s underground film scene. His film instructs the audiences how to not only critique the film’s that follow, but to contextualize those films in the digital world of platform diversity, online promotion, and the labyrinth of media based paratexts.