TUE STEEN MULLER ABOUT "21 x NEW YORK"
It starts in the New York subway and it ends in the New York subway. ‘Time’s up’ a man screams at the end station at the end of the film. A moment before the young Chinese man with the hat, the most high‑profile of the 21 male and female characters in the film, has announced what he thinks will happen to the world: Big Bang 2 will come, we will all come to live in a virtual world with our brains attached/directed through computers!
A sad film with a message? No, a powerful film with an enormous richness of energy, a film that rightfully hasbeen characterised as a symphony, I would add ‘a visual bombardment’ of sounds and images, of music and words, which are thoughts that bring the film to be – also – a philosophical essay on la condition humaine. With New York and its subway as the location. Well, to get grounded and straight forward, it is also a film shot in a fascinating place, underground New York, where more or less strange fates seek refuge. There is the artist who draws faces (like director Piotr Stasik catches faces with his camera), there is the mentioned Chinese artist, who wants solitude but goes to the subway stations to take photos with his cell phone, there is the young man who is looking for women with big asses, the blind young man who performs with coins…
It’s New York, it’s where you most clearly sense the pulse of a city. Wonderful and terrible at the same time. It does not have the charm that Walter Benjamin experienced as a flaneur in the streets of Paris or the romanticism Hans Christian Andersen filled himself with on his travels to the South of Europe. Here it is tough and rude and noisy, when the train doors make their music or when homeless cry out for help or – softer – when a bass player’s tunes fill the platform. And yet, what is it about? What is it that ‘all the lonely people’ are looking for? LOVE. In the fragmented stories conveyed by the 21, ‘love is all there is’. They long for, they look for relationships, they succeed or they don’t, they get beaten up by a partner, they go dating and find the right one after having met several others for a whole week, they perform in night clubs, they are all equipped with the cell phone, when they are being transported in the subway.
That is the core of a narrative that in tone sometimes brings you into a meditative, introvert or even introspective mood music score. And a montage that is equally exceptional. There is a change of rhythm, and in between changes of how muchthe image fill out the screen, there are sequences that last longer and invite you in, and there are sequences that ‘shoot at you’ with a fast editing that is almost impossible to follow for the eye. Like when a train passes you and you see someone, and then he/she is away. And then – thanks for that Stasik – there is the boy who (must be a reference to Marcel Łoziński’s Anything Can Happen) talks to a grown up man about girls. A scene full of humour when the grown up says ‘Men follow their penis’, which makes the boy burst into laughter while hesitating to repeat the sentence… With this scene Piotr Stasik leaves the subway and gives us some green grass. He also takes us up from underground to the streets of New York, to nightclubs and home to the thinking Chinese artist, who has the most interesting texts/ monologue of the 21. A quote: ‘Without a pretext for a deep thinking my brain slowly falls asleep. In this half‑sleep I ride on the subway, lulled by anti‑depressants. Finally I feel aligned with people here…’
I have followed Piotr Stasik since he visited another city and made 7 x Moscow (2006), followed by his lyrical The Last Summer (2010) and Diary of a Journey (2013) about fabulous photographer Tadeusz Rolke – all short documentaries that showed his unique documentary eye. With 21 x New York, his first feature length work, he has gone further and has got his international breakthrough, developing his visual language and composition skills, expanding the borders of documentary filmmaking. ‘New York, New York, if you can make it there, you can
make it anywhere’. What’s next?
Tue Steen Muller, Focus on Poland Magazine 4 (2/2016)