A Month of Single Frames
In 2018, one year before she passed away, the influential feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer revisited a project she had worked on 20 years prior, compiled over the course of a month while living in one of Princeton’s Dune Shacks. In this short film created in collaboration with experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, we are immersed in Hammer’s observations from the dunes through film, writing, and photography.
The film is structured around Hammer reading from her 1998 diary while images from her month of seclusion capture the biodiversity of the sand dunes. The result is an incredibly potent study of life in all its many forms and the difficulty of facing one’s own mortality. As Hammer looks back on her younger self, layers of memory cascade over each other as the images of the sand dunes slide together to form a compelling montage of the natural world.
FULL REVIEW VIA ONE ROOM WITH A VIEW: oneroomwithaview.com/2020/06/25/a-month-of-single-frames-sheffield-doc-fest-2020-review/
– Rob Salusbury
This is a posthumously collaborative work in which Sachs’ friend Barbara Hammer entrusted her with a selection of unfinished material from a 1998 residency and offered her the opportunity to complete the film as she saw fit. The resulting work incorporates Hammer’s highly formalized attention to seaside landscapes — sand dunes, expansive horizons — in what amounts to a retroactive diary film.
The soundtrack mostly consists of audio recordings of Hammer describing her relationship to the space and how it affected her work and her thinking. The result, as you might expect, is a kind of sidelong contribution to Hammer’s filmography: we see her muscular lyricism as organized through Sachs’ somewhat more linear compositional tendencies. It’s far too alive and present-tense to be a eulogy. Just a lovely, hard-to-position hybrid object.
– Michael Sicinski
When the act of making art (whether a film or any other form) seems lonely, this experimental short proves that isolation is broken when there’s an audience, when there’s reinterpretation or appropriation, building a dialogue through time that even transcends death. The musings about a life’s end become thus universal and we can see ourselves in our finitude, in the idle reflection of nothingness about to become.
– Pos Manero
Turning an unfinished film project from pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, into a remarkable kaleidoscopic journey, director Lynne Sachs seeks to present a study of life with her film, ‘A Month of Single Frames’.
Offering a relaxing and potent exploration of time and location, this is visually alluring and structurally intricate experimental work from Sachs, in which there is much to absorb and reflect upon
.- William Leesee
Strikingly familiar. A love letter to nature, Hammer emphasizes the dichotomy between simple and complex.
“You are alone. / I am here with you in this film.”
I will find myself returning to this piece, again and again, like a bird to its nest.
– Josh Korme
A lovely personal short. Old footage is repurposed with time, just like mundane elements are repurposed in this old footage, creating a nice little cyclical mood. Beautiful textures are created using close-ups or slight alterations of image, revealing new sides to old things. The sound design adds another layer, modifying and complementing the textures, while the dialogue between two creators closes the gap between twenty years. ‘A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)’ is a movie of time stopping. It’s the breath you take when contemplating a breathtaking natural landscape. The fresh air fills your lungs and you stop, peacefully. You live in this moment. This is it.
– JP Nakashima
I wish I could put this film in a tiny glass jar and just keep it forever. It reminds me of warm summer days in Massachusetts and being read to by my grandparents – even if what’s being said is serious. Vivre sa vie (live your life), and love it as fully as you can.
There’s a magic to the creation of a beautiful image—as someone without the ability to create images, it’s very mysterious to me. I love to watch people draw: they set down lines on paper. I can do that too! The lines are dead, they don’t mean anything. But then something suddenly happens, which I don’t understand at all—now the lines are a picture. That incomprehension is at the root of what I love about visual art.
It’s nice to watch someone completely fail to create beautiful images—to feel the disconnect between the beauty they observe in what they see and their ability to create a representation of that beauty that can communicate it to others. It reminds you how special and rare that talent is, that it can’t be taken for granted, however easy it might be to take it for granted if we only watched things that were good.
The strength of this short lays on the combination of all its different layers, and how they play off themselves. Not only do we get different visual elements, such as Hammer’s quotidian footage and visual experiments, but we also get to see her reflect on them and her experience through the reading of her own diary. This gets more complex when we consider Sachs own ideas, expressed through her editing and subtitles. Its a warm and casually profound short revolving around the creation of art and the possible dialogues between different artists, as well as artists with their audience.
A wonderfully poetic and existential celebration of nature. Incredibly comforting. What’s not to love?
i am overwhelmed by simplicity; there is so much to see
navigating the intricacy embedded within simplicity—an echo of all things grand and imposing—hammer and sachs meld their minds in this gorgeous ode to everything, to nothing. a woman dying as much now as she was back then reminds us that there is as much lucidity in stillness as there is movement; sand as there is in sea; dreams as there is in consciousness.
hammer shatters time’s linearity to transport us back to cape cod in 1998, but the time and location doesn’t matter. with this project, we are here in the now, we are back in the past. she was there, and she immortalised it on film, but film or not, her spirit would always remain—her connection with the place, her manipulation of it for shots, her frustration, her joy. empathy and a mutual gaze means we are not alone, she is with us in this film, even long after she’s gone.
”I feel compelled to do nothing. There is nothing to do. Everything waits expectantly for discovery.”
I love the dull haze of this film, the general view and focus on time but that focus blurred by time, a lost moment in memory that doesn’t exist any longer but refers back to a formative time and place through the fog of human living.
Todd May, explaining Deleuze and Nietzsche, once wrote that there is no such thing as being, only ever becoming. This is a film about a time of becoming, with being fading into obscurity and impossibility. Nothing is the way it is for very long, least of all our experiences.
Themes of wind, memory, fading sun, morphing colours, the eternal presence of difference that rises and fades as we watch, it’s beautiful.
”Why is that I can’t see nature pure and whole, without artifice?”
We are all here together. I am here alone.
Barbara was actually my great-aunt, and seeing these fragments of her makes me wish I was able to spend more time with her before she passed. She was such a fascinating woman and it would have been amazing to get to know her when she was younger. This collaborative piece recalls her ability to evoke that raw, often romanticized ideal of filmmaking, that you can draw retaliation by shooting the simplest things around you. Lynne Sachs’ composition draws these individual pieces together into a lovely experimental work that showcases how the spirit of everything around us can create art and companionship.
– Mason Carr
“The sadness of departure, the inevitable ending of breath, and blood, coursing. The complete and thorough blankness. Is this why we make busy, she wondered, so that we won’t have time to contemplate the heart-wrenching end to this expanse called life?”
Beautifully captures the joy of experimenting with film, the drive to capture and make sense of ourselves and our environment through photography, as well as contemplating our mortality and the ephemeral nature of life through the hopefully immortal medium of film.
– Jorge Olvera
Hammer’s beautiful film and her voice create a wonderfully meditative state. There’s something quite special about watching this film, essentially a home video for decades, that gives its gentle images a deep power. It’s wonderful, too, to hear Hammer’s voice read out her diary and reflect quite honestly about death. Whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not Hammer’s words about keeping busy to avoid the truth of our impending deaths is refreshingly bleak but beautiful.
made for and with barbara hammer, connection, collaboration, living with art, nature read through art, through living, watched on my childhood bed on a spring afternoon before a walk, with what could be seen as the less than ideal watching circumstances, could see my reflection on my laptop during the dark scenes, reminding of my existence, living with the film, living as the film runs, time, process, loss, revisitation, derek jarman, death, nature and art, cottage by the sea, morden nature, a vine growing on the side of something, use of another’s archive –
A beautiful tribute to Barbara Hammer, detailing the world she lives in with a fresh gaze. A conversation about mortality and continuation. Something struck me in this short film, from the small amounts of text to the beautifully written poetry. Recently I’ve been reading up on a lot of queer theory, and to see things like embracing the failures of experimentation is really incredible. Something magical is within this short film, and it got me glued from start to finish.
“I’m overwhelmed by simplicity”-
A sadly moving picture of a moment in time that continues to evoke wonder. I was moved to tears over the connection I felt through this. It was a pleasure to have shot out in that area. It’s a very connected place…
There’s a very quiet experience involved with being queer that resonates through this film and I think my life is just going to be figuring out what that is.