How might you spend an hour this week? Perhaps it will be dominated by bat men, mad men or—if you’re lucky—the ice-cream man. So it wouldn’t kill you to go see an experimental film, especially one as singular and thought-provoking as John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind. On the strength of its critical reception at festivals, this lovely, rigorous piece (made by a Boston professor) has secured what few experimental works do, a one-week theatrical run. It deserves it.
Should you commit, you’ll have, firstly, the strangest sensation of being outdoors. The entire film, a documentary, is composed of quiet, still moments, far from the city. Trees sway in the breeze; occasionally you’ll hear a distant car pass. People do not invade these shots, at least not living ones. Profit Motive is composed almost entirely of footage captured at grave sites. The daytime serenity of these resting places proves absorbing. If your mind wanders, it’ll be doing exactly what it might have if you’d actually ventured out to pay your respects.
Then there are the names of the fallen themselves: stately, solemn, sure to inspire. From Thomas Paine and Eugene Debs to Malcolm X and César Chávez, the doc quietly constructs a chronology of American rebellion, of strivers, laborers and rioters. Even if other names mean nothing to you, they stir with the finality of death (they’re taken from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). Gianvito, to his achievement, weds a socialist remembrance with the land itself; his film suggests the naturalness of American defiance, poured into its very soil. You begin to wonder how these people might have sacrificed an hour—and suddenly, it’s over.