Lumphini 2552

Dir. by Tomonari Nishikawa

Tomonari Nishikawa’s Lumphini 2552 is constructed from still black-and-white photos (2,552 of them?) of dense growths of plants and trees. The images fly by quickly — 12 per second, I’d guess — which turns them into high-contrast abstraction and allows Nishikawa to carefully modulate the rhythms of the film. In the opening seconds, he cuts repeatedly from long shots to close-ups, mimicking the effect of time-lapse photography. Later, he alternates between compositions of vertical and horizontal lines, which, like Muybridge’s horses, creates the tense illusion of movement. Shots of shaded stems are a palette of blacks; low-angle views into the treetops are whites. And the whole thing resolves perfectly into darkness, like a breath. It’s a sublime kaleidoscope, I’ll tell you, and a damn fine way to spend three minutes.

My tendency when describing a film like Lumphini 2552 is to fall back on Modernist rallying cries like that old Ezra Pound chestnut, “Make it new!” Maybe a useful way to think of Nishikawa’s film is as a beautifully defamiliarized — and uniquely cinematic — landscape. In that sense it reminds me of the few Brackhage collages I’ve seen — films like The Garden of Earthly Delights and Mothlight.