Guy Ben-Ner

3 out of 5 stars
Guy Ben Ner If only 9.jpg
Courtesy the artist and Gimpel Fils Guy Ben-Ner, still from If Only it Was as Easy to Banish Hunger by Rubbing the Belly as it is to Masturbate, 2009

Drop the Monkey’ is an ingenious eight-minute film made over the course of a year, in which the only editing takes place when Guy Ben-Ner presses record or stop – each jump magically flitting the artist/protagonist between Tel Aviv and Berlin. We follow him making weekly flights between the two cities for a few seconds of footage at a time, his changing haircut (shaved off line by line over a long period) and t-shirt (modified first by marker pen and further by spilled coffee) proving there’s no digital trickery or backtracking along the way.

The Israeli artist swaps rhyming couplets with his jet-setting alter ego about their interminable commute and the peculiar circumstances of this specially commissioned piece of work that doubles, he admits, as an excuse to carry out a long-distance relationship with a new girlfriend. As the sonnets become sadder it’s clear the unnamed object of his affection sees his endeavour differently and breaks up with him, perceiving that his interest in her is a passing ruse to make a novel piece of work.

Whatever his motives – structural, practical or contingent – it’s clearly a labour of love, whereas the other piece here, ‘If Only It Was as Easy to Banish Hunger by Rubbing the Belly as It Is to Masturbate’ is, as it sounds, an overcomplicated slice of narrated subterfuge on the related topics of uprootedness and infidelity (Ben-Ner split from his wife and kids who appeared in earlier films).

This resembles an exceptionally bad episode of ‘Lost’, complete with a lo-fi plane crash and stilted, florid dialogue that eats its own tail and borrows heavily from Don Quixote and Moby Dick with some Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne references to adventure thrown in (hence the show’s title, ‘Name Dropping’). While an enviable talent in transgressing filmic norms, Ben-Ner’s shaggy dog stories tend to tail off at their end. Perhaps more editing and a few more films will solve all that.


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