DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Alcatraz / Eberbach AV Presentation (2013)

An interesting throwback to slide/sound/dissolve presentations, and quite a visual/aural experience for those familiar with San Francisco Bay.

Published on October 5, 2013

Alcatraz / Eberbach AV Presentation (2013)

Alcatraz / Eberbach AV Presentation (2013)

Still photos by Jim Bengston; Soundtrack by Ingram Marshall
Director: Jim Bengston
Studio:  Starkland Records S-2019 (10/29/13)
Video: 16:9 All regions
Audio: DTS 5.1 or DD 2.0
Length: 48 minutes
Rating: ****

This is a video version of a slide/sound/music presentation which the photographer and composer have done on tours around the world. It comes from work they did in the early 1980s both at Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay and also at the abandoned monastery of Eberbach in Germany, which they ran into when they were touring their slide/sound presentation.

Photographer Bengston photographed the abandoned Alcatraz with his 35mm camera, using similar lenses so that the images can slowly dissolve from one to another with almost the same perspective. Meanwhile composer Ingram Marshall was recording the many Bay sounds, as well as the interiors of the abandoned cells, such as the loudly clanging cell doors. The relationship of sound to image is experimented with in this presentation, much as the time element is strung out in the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler versus those of Haydn or Mozart. Yet on occasion the images dissolve rapidly to fit the busy soundtrack sounds. The great austerity of the place comes thru in the evocative Bengston stills. I found I was thinking of the many guards and inmates who were active in these spaces, and wondering if Bengston had any of the “ghost photographs” such environments have frequently provided others. Of course he wouldn’t have included those in this presentation.

The Eberbach Monastery presentation is shorter but the same sort of thing, though some of the surroundings look slightly less austere than the shots of Alcatraz. I was a bit surprised that although Marshall used some male vocal sounds in the soundtrack for the Alcatraz images, there were no vocal sounds accompanying the Eberbach photography.   The extremely slow dissolves of some of the images often creates a third entirely different image and are obviously intended by Bengston. The images are the format of standard 35mm film, and therefore have very small black borders on a typical 16:9 display. This is a fine alternative to the fast-cutting commercial-style video that has become such a fashion today everywhere.

The project took some doing since after living in the Bay Area for some time Marshall is now in Connecticut, and Bengston resides in Norway. That may be why the project took so long to come to commercial DVD. Both of the soundtracks had been previously released on stereo CDs from New Albion and Nonesuch, but Marshall created a new 5.1 surround track for this DVD.

—John Sunier




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