The Realist

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2013, HD video, color/sound, 36 mins.
Music: Daniel Goode, composer

The Realist is an experimental and highly abstracted melodrama, a "doomed love story" storyboarded with flickering still photographs, peopled with department store mannequins, and located in the visually heightened universe of clothing displays, fashion islands and storefront windows.

Stylistically, The Realist uses a technique I developed for my 2001 film Angel Beach, alternating between the left- and right-eye images of stereo 3D photographs. (The "Realist" was also the name of a popular stereo camera sold in the 1950s and 60s.) In The Realist, this alternating-image technique creates a flickering, trembling, dazzling trajectory through the worlds of department store displays and storefront windows. The constant flickering and rhythmic editing between scenes creates a visual tension that teeters on the edge of abstraction but never entirely loses its grounding in reality. The mannequins seem to be trying to wriggle themselves free from their predetermined poses, and mysterious, abstract shapes sometimes emerge out of the confusion of odd movements and juxtapositions.

A looping musical soundtrack (composer Daniel Goode's Tunnel-Funnel) punctuates the lyrical editing and drives the dramatic fructuations.

The Realist is a soaring visual romp peppered with turgid melodramatic moments, flickering visual rhythms that border on abstraction, and seductive images of commercial products with their dubious promises of physical nourishment and fashionable allure. In the process, It examines our own relationship to consumerist culture: we see in these commercial displays idealized, pre-packaged renderings of our own needs, desires and identities. Perhaps on some level we, too, communicate and define ourselves in the same way that the mannequins do; we are what we buy. -- Scott Stark

"I'm in awe... The Realist is a masterpiece!" -- Richard Herskowitz, Cinema Arts Festival Houston

"The Realist is a masterpiece, and that's no exaggeration." -- Australian International Experimental Film Festival

"This is a magisterial composition, the work of a visionary artist, a true poet, who is in complete command of his medium.... the power of The Realist comes from a synthesis of form and content - there's something deeper than just dynamism, no matter how dazzling it may be. Something ultimately poignant, even wistful, in this universal melodrama of our time." -- Gene Youngblood, author of Expanded Cinema

"Wonderful... The Realist employs a 'realism' well beyond anything Bazin might have advised, letting the construction of the process come forward in a manner that produces one coherence (moving bodies) at the expense of another (cyclotronic, Cubist space). The Reaist is a film about a universe so perverse that it can no longer keep its fetishes straight." -- Michael Sicinski, "The Hollow Ones: Scott Stark's 'The Realist'"

"Scott Stark's The Realist [was] undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year's Wavelengths program... in light of Stark's greater catalogue, it's easy to confirm the film as the fullest realization yet of his digital phase, where his interest in the duality of the still image has bloomed into a stereophonic symphony -- or, as Stark puts it, a two-and-a-half dimension display -- of reanimated consumer culture and Plasticine pleasures." -- Jordan Cronk, Fandor's Best of 2013 Avant Garde

"With The Realist, Stark appears to have crossed a major threshold, pressing a prolific lifetime of homespun memes and special effects, of gestures comic, cosmic and ambiguously political, into the service of a cinematic saga of sorts, a movie-movie for once, augmented by glossy hit-and-run production values, timed to a preexisting music score (American minimalist Daniel Goode's 1998 large-ensemble piece Tunnel-Funnel), and knit together in ways calculated to mess with viewers' expectations of narrative coherence." -- Ron Stringer, artillery magazine

"The filmmaker's device provokes a slippery vibration that combined with close-ups of commercial objectification lead to a mysterious world of sensual fetishism. ... the film accentuates and ridicules our sense for and identification with consumerism." -- Mónica Savirón, LUMIÉRE

"It was remarkable to me how this work retains a sense of created 'cinematic time,' i.e. an illusory feeling of narrative progression as scenes and sections move forward, against all reasonable odds." -- Brian Darr, Hell On Frisco Bay

"It is clear by now that Stark has become a master of his own aesthetic. Filmed mostly within the confines of a department store, sharp vibrating, tight cropping, and rabid bursts of color immerse the viewer in nearly overwhelming propensity." -- Betsy Huete, Carpet Mannequins Vaginas Oh My! The Experimental Films of Scott Stark (NSFW)

"A mesmerizing work." Cheryl Eddy, Are You Experimental?, San Francisco Bay Guardian, April 2, 2013.

"The best Hitchcock film that De Palma never made." - Roger Beebe, filmmaker

"The Realist is an illustrated AMERICAN BIBLE of its heart of darkness: where desire lays waste to Eden's Garden." Lily White, filmmaker.

"Whether viewed as consumerist critique or spellbinding, operatic fantasy, The Realist employs a deft binary structure that skews toward the metaphysical." -- Letterboxd

"The Realist is a dizzying and magical melodrama that links the emptiness of consumerism with the tragic fate of those plastic forms that inertly persuade us to desire." -- Samuel La France, Cinemascope

"Also in Programme 1... was Scott Stark's masterfully edited, sprawling, shaking, and strobing anti-capitalist piece The Realist." -- Andrew Parker, dorkshelf

"One of my favorites was The Realist' ... The way these mannequins shake (with emotion?), it's a literal approach to animation. Shopping may never be the same after these 36 throbbing minutes." -- David D'Arcy, indiewire