Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

In Possessed, Joan Crawford watches a train go by. In Possessed, we watch Fred Worden watching Joan Crawford watching a train go by. Or rather, we watch what Fred watches when Joan watches, an overlapping, jumping, sliding watching, splitting and resizing and ghostly reinforcement, stuttering as she spins, and the train moves, and inside artifacts of the segregated Pullman era are played out grimly, repetitively. A man shaves in silhouette, a white woman undresses, black men mix cocktails and cook dinner and set the table and black women iron and do laundry, a white couple dance, and Joan looks on, and on, and on, and on, and over, and back, and on, and on.

Experimental films sometimes suffer on the screen. Some call out to be contextualised in a vitrine rather than subjected to the gaze of a united audience. On his website Worden explains that he wanted to "commandeer the original train sequence from the 1932 film, Possessed and make it move in such a way as to give the girl (Joan Crawford) what she thought she wanted: a position on the inside." He describes the urge as "strong, slightly illicit", but among the dropped frames it seems more forced than it ought, less critical.

Michael Schumacher's score sounds like a roof leaking onto an orchestra, and perhaps it too is meant to elicit something specific, but this is territory for which a map is necessary. Knowing Worden's intent one wonders if latter day computer-wizardy would have given his Joan her desires more concretely. As it stands the enveloping train seems a taunt - no matter how configured she is outside, no matter how configured those inside remain there, she constrained by circumstance, they constrained by societal prejudice. The strong correlation between experimental film and flashing from the screen remains in evidence here, and sadly too the seeming need for greater context. This is all result and no hypothesis, signifying something.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2012
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Watching Joan Crawford watching life go by.
Amazon link

Director: Fred Worden

Starring: Fred Worden

Year: 2010

Runtime: 9 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2012

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