"There's an unfolding that happens when you look for a long enough time," says LA-based filmmaker Laura Kraning, who will screen Vineland, her evocative portrait of the Vineland Drive-In Movie Theater, this coming Sunday night (February 13) at Filmforum.
Kraning, who was an abstract painter before turning to filmmaking 10 years ago, practiced this patient looking to craft the award-winning Vineland, which is less a documentary profile than a visual exploration of the layering of windows, mirrors and screens that in turn sift together divergent layers of reality.
The film was shot entirely at night at the drive-in, which is located in the City of Industry, and the camera continuously frames and reframes the world on and beyond the theater screens. Shafts of light from passing cars intersect with the projector beam, illuminating the night sky with flickering brilliance. Characters onscreen are juxtaposed with drive-in patrons, and the smokestacks of the City of Industry align with landscapes caught by other cameras. The soundtrack captures and collages together snippets of dialogue or sound effects from Hollywood films, the blaring of train horns, and the purr of passing cars, adding yet another layer of mixed reality.
"I've always been attracted to drive-ins," says Kraning, explaining the genesis of the film. "In every city I've lived in, I've always sought the one last drive-in, usually on the outskirts of town." Kraning moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, and soon after, started going to the Vineland. "I was fascinated by the location," she says, "and even just the fact that there's a place called 'the City of Industry.' Then when I saw the Metro trains going by the screen at night, I was stunned. The light obliterates the movie image for a moment, and I don't know if other people think about how odd it is, but there's this interference with the cinema experience, and I love it. It's the real world interacting with cinema in these overlapping realities. It all becomes an illusion."
Kraning's film is part of a larger history of "city symphonies," or films made in celebration of the city. It's also a tribute to the specifics of cinema - light, the frame, and the magical moment of inspired juxtaposition - but most of all, it's about exploring the world around us, or making it unfamiliar for a moment so that we can see it anew.
Vineland will screen as part of a program of other short films titled "New Urban Observations" at Filmforum, Sunday, February 13, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. at the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. (at Las Palmas). Other films include Jack Cronin's Invisible City and Thom Andersen's Get Out of the Car.