(Still from Unknown Pleasures)
One thing hanging out with an eleven year old for too long will make you aware of is just how much noise there is around us. Aside from the digital boom boom of the iPhone, the iPod Touch, the Nintendo DS, of YouTube, there’s the aggressive car alarm, the inane conversation of the public caller, and the screech of metal on metal as the one rounds the bend into 42nd Street. Yes, I know, this is what the old people always say. But the question here is, can it be turned into art?
I’m no fan of noise installations, and sound was one of the main things that turned me away from video art. In film, however – not movies, fellow snobs, film – I tend to appreciate exaggerated sound depictions.
Homage must be paid to Robert Bresson, who stripped his scenes of almost all natural sound, the more to isolate and purify the action. And Godard used sound to interrupt the movie-daze of filmgoers, cutting songs mid-lyric, for example.
In a more realistic vein, I particularly admire the invasive, dominating sound of televisions, public announcements, chatter and pop music in the Jia Zhangke’s 2002 film Unknown Pleasures about a group of sapped, unemotional youth in developing China (you can watch it instantly through Netflix).