“Yes I do, I speak to myself all the time” says a young self-possessed girl, as if Alice-in-Wonderland. There are many Alices in Ed Bowes’s latest sublime work, Gold Hill, a thirty-minute exceptionally visual palette of colors, faces, utterances, and landscapes, with contemplation beyond. His composition is “near to sentences” (a line in the film), approaching a narrative, but eluding it. Bowes’s palette is conscious in every framing, sometimes focus/unfocused, reality’s edges softened. Other visions appear through re-proportioned perception.
Bowes speaks to the “uninhabitability” of all matters. A young girl speaks followed by a woman working. They are graceful, yet intent, self-possessed, serious, and unafflicted. One woman played by Jade Lascelles, is placed in profile, and one can be startled to make likeness to a Jan Van Eck painting. There are eight characters, or models, all female, extensions of each other, yet distinct, as humans are. There are six contributors to the text, and three locations, set in Gold Hill, Colorado. The text is wise, whispering, and at times almost gibberish. Language is sense and sentience: “And the body moves towards decay and the mind still dancing and the eyes gone astray.”
Faces are land, landscape, ground. Two girls explore speech, utterance, innocent and knowing: “B-b-b-bundle,” says young actor Eva Hunt. The fire-haired actor Toni Oswald walks through a dry field like a shepherd, and ruminates on the element water, her hair like the texture of the wheat/weeds. A cup is poetry, an interlude of contemplation. A hand grabs cash by the cup, and the still life is utterly changed, the cup alone in a greater stillness. Bowes always captures the light on every face in a distinct way that illumines the qualities in that face. An unfocused figure lay on a wood floor. It is poet Anne Waldman, Bowes’s collaborator and wife, her voice taking the form of shamanic query. “How does the mind go observing?” Waldman inquires. This question may be the at the crux of the film. A girl tells a story about a dead bat, a bit hauntingly. There are these private intimate moments of speech and utterance and breath that belong to Bowes specifically, in the ways he captures them. There is subtext/no subtext, context/no context, simultaneously. The dream-like compositions help us to hear sound, speech. No story. “Sexual shapes perhaps.” Woman’s voices only. A red thread while speaking creates movement. A paper glides to stillness on the floor. The open flap of a shirt is a image sifted through our consciousness as viewers. What’s in frame is never mundane, even as the person, object, scene is revisioned. There is a sense of the in between, of passage, of observance.
“Isomorphic” tableaus of one, become a duet/duel of conversation; “Monica is an extension of Verena.” The beauty of reality is untrammeled, accentuated in faces, profiles, waves of hair. Bowes gives the endless expression of real reflection, and“pre-language.” He gives us the texture of fiery red hair against a green hilly valley. The faces look into camera at us calling us out/in.
The internal shone on the face through utterance. Soothing on the eyes, Bowes’s sense of time as a code of character is accessible. There is a luscious quality to the look, like film. Eva Hunt: “If you lived in a little village, you might want to tame a wolf…I alphabetize.” There are these riddles and ruminations. The play of “gravity or heaven” is always operating in the film. In sepia-toned or painterly stillness, full, half or quarter frames, we meet eight speakers who may be the “capricious girls” created out of six text contributions. Bowes plays applies his deeply developed aesthetics here with a light touch, gracing us with the presences of Gold Hill.