The Cage (1947)

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*. I like some experimental films very much. But not this one.
*. As with The Potted Psalm, basically it’s just a catalogue of the usual tricks. Peterson turns the camera at odd angles, or flips it upside-down, or spins it in circles. He reverse the film, or distorts the picture in funhouse-mirror surfaces. He goes out of focus, or crowds in for extreme close-ups. Shots are repeated again and again.
*. None of it adds up to much. There’s a flimsy bit of a story but none of the political or aesthetic messaging of surrealism, which had played all the same visual games twenty years earlier. As far as I can tell there’s no point being made at all.
*. Two items of interest stand out. A man removes his eyeball and we get some shots from its (the eye’s) point of view as it rolls around the floor and gets lost in the city (San Francisco). And out on the street the cast of the film seem to run forward while everything else around them is in reverse motion. This part must have been fun to film. More fun than to watch, I think.
*. The eyeball and the reverse running are the kinds of things that we might label as “concept art.” But while the idea or concept may be interesting, the execution is ineffective. It’s not well done, and after a while we’re left wondering why it’s being done at all.
*. Even though it comes in at only 28 minutes I found this hard to finish watching once. It feels like a student piece, but as a filmmaker Peterson never really graduated to the next level. Today I think his short films have mainly a historical interest.

thecage1

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