Putty Hill (Film Screening)

For my 3rd blog post, I attempted to go to The Whitney to see the biennial exhibits, but I arrived late in the afternoon (just before 4pm), so I decided to jump into a screening. The film was Putty Hill by Matt Porterfield. It takes place in the outskirts of Baltimore and centers around the death of a local youth, Cory.

(Here is the trailer)

Porterfield was originally attempting to make a film called Metal Gods before he began work on Putty Hill, but due to lack of financing for the film, he had to postpone the project. He decided to make use what was available to him, starting with what he already had access to from where he left off with Metal Gods, beginning with some of the cast.

What was most enjoyable to me about the film was the use of non-actors. While they were still cast, Porterfield had already formed a rapport with them enough to get them to share bits and pieces of their personal lives in extended monologues, while then sculpting them into the main drama of the story, and the loss of a friend, family member, classmate, etc.

Of course, I couldn’t but think of Godard in this method, or in terms of of blending fiction with documentary, especially when I think of Masculin Feminin (1966). Such as the interview that takes place with “Miss 19”

At first, it can seem like a scripted interview, in which someone is playing a character, but as it goes further into the politics of that time in France, we see the emergence of a real person who is apart of that culture.

In this sense, I felt the interviews from Putty Hill were similarly effective in making me feel like I was getting a sincere description of what it was like to be someone in that area of Baltimore and to be apart of that socioeconomic class and how might interpret death in that setting.

It is not just the hybrid of character/real person that makes interviews like these effective, but also their length. We’re forced to sit there long enough until we someone feel the weight of the disparity that comes with being that age in a small town that has drug problems and not much to do. In a Deleuzian sense, we have we’re kept in immanence because we’re moving back and forth between a character becoming real and vice versa. We’re never given a sense of how much of which side we are experiencing at any given time.

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