blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

21-87 (1964, Arthur Lipsett)

A scene from 21-87, directed by Arthur Lipsett for The National Film Board of Canada.

The title credit card of 21-87 is a human skull and the second clip (the film is a collection of somewhat unrelated clips edited together) is of an autopsy.

It’s hard not to think about mortality while watching it, especially once the accompanying soundtrack—usually interviews unrelated to the clips—starts talking about religion. The short enters its second part when one interviewee equates nature to spirituality. Of course, there’s no nature in 21-87, just city.

The short’s often disconcerting because many people stare directly into the camera, which makes one wonder about Lipsett’s filmmaking process, not what he’s trying to do with the presentation of the sound and image. He’s very successful in showing how sound is essential to taking an image in context.

He also has an excellent scene at a fashion show.

But he’s never able to force the viewer to suspend the process questions.



Directed by Arthur Lipsett; produced by Tom Daly and Colin Low; released by The National Film Board of Canada.


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