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The Plains at UW Cinematheque
November 17, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pmFree
A shot from the backseat of Andrew Rakowski’s Hyundai Elantra shows him (right) and director David Easteal in the passenger’s seat (left) shortly after leaving their office park for the day.
Excerpt from Grant Phipps’ review and interview with director David Easteal:
David Easteal finds a new meditative grammar for the road movie in The Plains (2022), a rigorously composed docufiction epic about our habitual commute, the intimacy of impermanence, and the subtly direct intermediary of technology.
In the casting of himself as a secondary character to the film’s principal traveler (and occasional chauffeur) Andrew Rakowski, Easteal’s film feels endlessly amidst a journey—treading on business routes and Monash Freeway beyond the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, meandering through the life and times of its quinquagenarian driver over a 12-month period. A fixed static shot in the backseat of Rakowski’s compact Hyundai Elantra frames his world view, quite literally, as he peers out at the skyline and his fellow 5 p.m. commuters rolling along between traffic lights and km/h speed limit signs. But it’s the audible space within the car’s interior and Rakowski’s routine that command attention over a nearly three-hour duration, whether it’s listening to the hum of talk radio (on 93.1 and 105.9 presets) for a minute after turning the ignition, phoning his longtime wife Cheri or 95-year-old mother Inga at a nursing home (through his earbuds), chatting with fellow barrister and firm colleague Easteal, or simply sitting speechless as the gusting ambiance of the roadway fills the vehicle’s cozy, confined environs.
In its series of plainspoken, philosophical car conversations, The Plains shares some commonality with the tradition of Iranian art cinema from the minds of Abbas Kiarostami (Taste Of Cherry, Ten) or Jafar Panahi (Taxi Tehran). But the film’s earnest virtues align it more closely with the nearly dialogue-free documentary Cousin Jules (1972), Dominique Benicheti’s enthralling, almost devout five-year chronicle of an elderly French couple’s daily agrarian rituals. Easteal reapplies a similar aesthetic to Benicheti’s to construct a film deeply rooted in the customs of contemporary Australia and shifting landscapes like so many other places in the post-industrialized Western world (including Madison).
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