Sometimes the world seems to hurtle along with all the subtlety of the trailer for a bombastic Hollywood blockbuster. And cinema trailers, by their nature, don’t have time to muck about. They have to jostle with each other and smash-and-grab your attention, only to rush off again just seconds later.
You know the kind of thing: short info-bursts that cram together the sounds and images and bluster, and pummel your senses in the hope of leaving an imprint on your neurons, but leaving you with no time or space for reflection.
That’s Hollywood for you. But there’s a very different concept of time at the heart of Long Now, Paddy Cahill’s beautiful new documentary about Amanda Coogan’s performance art. The hour-long film had its world premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival this weekend, and it’s superb.
At first it unfolds very slowly and gently in very long takes: this initial sequence has no voiceovers or commentary, as Coogan moves at an almost imperceptible pace. It takes a full 14 or 15 minutes until the opening title finally appears and Coogan begins to talk about her work.
Later performance sequences are more frantic and visceral, with plenty of soap and spittle and beautiful silk dresses in bold vibrant colours, but I won’t spoil it. The film showcases a wide range of Coogan’s projects, from Spit Spit Scrub Scrub to the Yellow series, and a recent performance at the futuristic Centro Niemeyer on the estuary of Avilés in northern Spain.
One thing the above trailer does give a taste of is the mesmerising use of time-lapse photography. While this speeds up the actions of Coogan’s collaborators around her, it also makes her own very slow-mo movements appear to be at “normal” speed. It’s a simple but powerful way of uncovering the hidden patterns and delicate precision in Coogan’s performance.
Keep an eye out for the film, though don’t count on it appearing on the small screen in Ireland any time soon. RTÉ and TV3 (or whatever it’s called this week) had no time for several other classy documentaries from the past year or two either, from Johnny Gogan’s film about Hubert Butler to Tadhg O’Sullivan’s The Great Wall. No time. More’s the pity.