The Royal Road

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Royal Road
"If you are willing to drift along Olson's stream of consciousness, there are pleasures along the way, but not all her meanderings make the connections she hopes for."

Jenni Olson's often personal and occasionally poetic film begins with a definition of the word voiceover. What it doesn't mention is how exposed the technique is on film, especially when overlaying uncluttered images such as this - long static takes of sights and buildings along the road of the title that echo the work of James Benning.

Profundity is difficult. The feeling of dwelling on every word, often to its detriment, is intensified by the fact that, while much of what Olson is saying is brave, in terms of exposing what makes her tick emotionally, its specificity makes it harder to connect with.

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El Camino Real is in the former Spanish territories of America, stretching from San Diego in north California to Sonoma in the southern part of the state. It is dotted with way marker bells and statues of Fr Junipero Serra, whose history and myth Olson probes while also questioning the selective nature of collective memory, such as the formation of the US. Along the way, her camera alights on locations from Vertigo and Sunset Boulevard, prompting further digressions and considerations of the past, her own recollection of "unrequited desires" leading her to dwell on the attraction of nostalgia.

When someone is bearing their soul, as Olson seems to be in places here, it seems almost cruel to criticise her delivery, but her voiceover seems stuck in sleepiness, the drawl of it emphasised by her choice of shots, which though often capturing strong images, deliberately take place in moments when it seems Olson and her cinematographer Sophie Constantinou may be the last people alive on earth. If you are willing to drift along Olson's stream of consciousness, there are pleasures along the way, but not all her meanderings make the connections she hopes for.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2015
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Cinematic essay considering the history of California and the personal desires of the director.

Director: Jenni Olson

Writer: Jenni Olson, Jenni Olson

Starring: Tony Kushner, Jenni Olson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 65 minutes

Country: US


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