A Rare Masterpiece by Daniel Barnett


January 21, 2009

bloody lipsticky mouth

WHITE HEART is one of those ‘famous’ films that practically no one knows about. But its advocates are passionate about it (mostly other filmmakers – it’s greatly admired by Nathaniel Dorsky, Phil Solomon, and Saul Levine, for example).

“Daniel Barnett is a leading experimental filmmaker who develops complex metaphors in his films out of rephotography and other post-production techniques. [ . . .] White Heart is his longest and most ambitious work. ‘Barnett’s film consists of many disparate images, chosen for their strong sensual qualities, coupled with a labyrinthine and equally sensual soundtrack. After establishing the basic images, Barnett begins to interweave them, exaggerating certain qualities (color, texture) during printing. A mundane shot of a man jerkily spraying down an empty lot is adjusted so his shirt becomes a brilliant red glare. A super close-up of a fingertip holding a match is contrasty enough so every particle of sweat glistens in the lens. Concurrent sounds are similarly exaggerated and contribute to the sensual wash…. Shots are joined so that each moment resonates differently in time.’ (Steve Anker, in Visions). White Heart takes off from a series of Wittgensteinian monologues which illustrate, as Konrad Steiner writes in Cinematograph (1985), ‘the huge difference in the quality of knowledge we have about the experience of others, and that which we have about our own.’ It goes on to investigate meaning, in a manner which Steiner likens to the painter Cezanne: ‘[The film has a] chaotic livelihood, [a] sense of gathering meanings right before my eyes. In this way the film is ABOUT the genesis of meaning…. [Cezanne’s] still lifes and landscapes depict a threshold of vision or perhaps an ur-vision, before the objects of that vision have been fully assimilated into the familiar, expected appearances through the action of the eye-mind. Likewise, Barnett’s film depicts a threshold of meaning. We are presented with a weave of sound and image not committed to a precisely rigid message….'” (Pacific Film Archive)

Daniel Barnett studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught filmmaking at SUNY Binghamton and at Massachusetts College of Art, and the San Francisco Art Institute. In addition to being an experimental film and video maker, he has worked professionally as a film editor and optical printing specialist and was the Executive Producer for Educational Projects at bePictures. He recently published the book Movement as Meaning: In Experimental Film.

WHITE HEART (1975, 53 minutes, vintage 16mm reversal print, color, sound): Directed by Daniel Barnett.

Filed under: 16mm, experimental