James Benning’s last film at the LFF was ‘Ruhr’, a series of fixed shots of largely depopulated parts of industrial Germany that culminated in a hypnotic near-hour-long image of a chimney at dusk, billowing smoke. There's more smoking in his latest film, in which twenty individuals – including fellow experimental filmmakers Sharon Lockhart and Tom Andersen – puff on a cigarette, each shot lasting the time it takes to reach the filter. Of course the movie should come with a health-warning for those who lack the tolerance for durational cinema. But in patiently observing the transformations that each cigarette has on the filmmaker’s score of subjects – from flinching distaste to quiet rapture – you can take much wry pleasure from Benning’s capacious curiosity in the landscape of the human face.
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