Revolution in the Air & Theories of Weightlessness
review in Otro Cines Europa by Victor Esquirol
Punto de Vista International Film Festival, Pamplona, Spain
March 9, 2018
“Yesterday (International Women’s Day) at Punto de Vista International Film Festival in Pamplona everything got scrambled. Or, better yet, revolutionized. Several screenings had to be postponed because even the festival bubble isn’t completely impenetrable, or, if it is, it at least feigns the same kind of openness to the world that we ask of our finest films. Out in the streets, women were saying Time’s Up, and Festival Director Garbiñe Ortega’s competition joined their cry. That cry resounded not only through the programming, but also in the many voices conjured up on such a historic day. Men and women reached parity. Not numerical parity but the very best kind. Balance—hell, justice—was achieved. It came mainly by way of the most noble and honest of gestures: that of underlining the importance of something we never imagined had any importance at all, in this case the operation of washing machines.
The Washing Society, by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs, makes the rounds of some of New York City’s more than 2,500 laundromats, local businesses that serve as a sociological laboratory. Through the eyes of the two directors—and with apologies to Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985)—these unassuming storefronts take on the character of strategic observation posts occupied by Mandarin- and Spanish-speaking sentinels.
Olesker and Sachs zoom in—at a microscopic level—on the idea of the melting pot. It’s an astonishing image: a skein of fibers and threads badly woven together. So much so that there isn’t anything left to do but send the whole mess to the laundry. What follows is an attempt to make sense of a nebula of colors that run circles around themselves, an image that, by its centrifugal force, creates an illusion of homogeneity. Nonetheless, far from cohering, the elements emerge shaken up, not mixed together. It’s an exercise in high-concept cinema to which Olesker and Sachs devote three quarters of an hour of film stock and many more quarters in tips, revealing the stains (of racism and classism) on an American Dream that seems to want to scrub away every last trace of its own identity. Later, a few more turns around the neighborhood and their documentary morphs into performance art. The voices go silent and the people we just heard interviewed get caught up in a cathartic dance that culminates in one final act of fading out, if not utter dissolution. All they have left are the clothes they’re wearing. Simple, comprehensible, and without question terrifying.”