Peter Hutton's films look like still photographs. This is not surprising, given his methodology: Hutton's films are silent, and the camera holds a static position for minutes at a time, allowing events to unfold (or not) within the camera's frame without editing. A truck backs up in the distance. Rain lashes a window. A curious figure approaches the lens. Each shot comprises a mini-film, connected to, but separate from, past and future scenes. Very little happens in a conventional cinematic sense. Hutton, a Bard professor, is considered a film artist rather than a filmmaker—more Lumière than Lumet.
Hutton's latest film, At Sea, his most narrative to date, tells the story of the birth, life, and death of a container ship. The opening section is shot at a shipbuilding operation in Korea, where the massive hulls dwarfs human activity. The middle section is the view from inside a container ship crossing the Atlantic, the vessel a long needle pointed across the waves. The last, most affecting section is of the ship-dismantling operation on the coast of Bangladesh. Barefoot workers with hand tools scuttle like crabs about the beached cargo vessels, tearing apart the hulls of ships for scrap, carrying the ship off a piece at a time, as well as the weight of Hutton's critique of transnational capitalism.
At Sea will be shown at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck on Sunday, August 24 at 8:30pm, followed by a discussion with Peter Hutton. (845) 876-2515; www.upstatefilms.org.