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Polyvocality in American Dreams

by Critical Commons Manager

For the complete duration of James Benning's 1984 structural film American Dreams, the limits of viewers' capacity to process multiple streams of information is tested and expanded. Some sequences play over music, others are accompanied by political speeches (such as this one), which are timed to coincide with the progression of Henry Aaron toward breaking Babe Ruth's longstanding home run record. The diary entries that scroll relentlessly across the bottom of the screen might be thought to be those of the filmmaker himself (how hard is it to imagine James Benning stalking Presidential candidate Richard Nixon in 1972?), but the words are those of Arthur Bremer (recopied in the filmmaker's own hand), who ultimately goes on to shoot Governor George Wallace rather than Nixon. Benning's film is remarkable both as a historiographical artifact and as an exercise in combining text, voice, music and image in the interests of cinematic assemblage.

Martin Luther King speech in American Dreams

A speech by Martin Luther King is laid over a sequence of Hank Aaron baseball cards and a handwritten scrolling text re-copied from the diary of Arthur Bremer

from American Dreams: Lost and Found (1984)
Creator: James Benning
Distributor: Austrian Filmmuseum
Posted by Critical Commons Manager