Marxism...fuck yeah! That's the moral of Nol Burch and Allan Sekula's tedious and hectoring "film essay" about the horrors of global capitalism; that it spends nearly two grueling hours building to that glibly "political" punch line is a real shame, considering its not-unsupportable thesis. That would be that the ocean, specifically the maritime trading industry, plays a major role in the destructive tendencies of our current economy. Burch and Sekula travel from port to port (stopovers in Holland, California, Belgium and China), interviewing displaced and marginalized workers, as a bruise-purple voiceover chimes in with pithy rhetoricals like, "Does the anonymity of the box turn the sea of exploit and adventure into a lake of invisible drudgery?" Egads.
The longer this unfocused screed goes on, the thinner your patience wears. (Are the amateurish editing and haphazard structure the products or the results of a failed bourgeois-upending provocation? Discuss.) Yet there are glimmers of a pointed and illuminating piece of work: You can see it in several of the strikingly composed images, like those of symmetrically stacked shipping containers---an oft-returned-to visual metaphor. And you can sense it whenever one of the interviewees displays a flicker of humanity, like Los Angeles tent-city resident Aereile Jackson's heartbreaking explanation of why she collects dolls. But for the most part, The Forgotten Space treats its subjects and settings as exploitable commodities in service to a lot of facile rise-working-man! muckraking. The ism trumps all.
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