a post to Cinemasters by Michael Sicinski
> I don't know anything about Sonbert, other than that his films
> are "experimental" (one of the more profoundly useless terms of our
The films being shown are Carriage Trade and Whiplash. At the risk of being as predictable as a Donald Wildmon boycott, I am going to recommend you check out the Sonbert.
His films are very unique in the experimental film world, and I think Carriage Trade is one of his best. Whiplash, which was completed after his death according to his specifications, is also a lovely film. Sonbert's films are like poetic, associative travelogues. Sometimes they are silent (as is Carriage Trade), but others use music tracks (Whiplash makes powerful use of CCR's version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine").
The most notable element of Sonbert's work is his editing. Like Vertov, he employs startling "creative geography," jumping across continents from shot to shot. He juxtaposed images based on visual or ideational rhymes. Some are graphic matches, but others are puns or ironic commentaries. Since the meaning is made between shots, his films can be exhausting. (I found that my attention came in and out of the longer ones, which is *not* to say I was bored.) But there is a real sense of playfulness and joy in his films which is incredibly rewarding to experience.
Also, Sonbert (from the films I've seen of his) always managed to strike a perfect balance between abstraction and representation. He treats the people and events he depicts as occasions for formal work on the image. Yet, there is a clear respect for historical and cultural specificity. He was clearly mentally engaged with the life around him, and yet his films are radically non-propagandistic.
If you happen to like Nathaniel Dorsky's films, I would definitely recommend checking out Sonbert. I sense an influence on Dorsky, but where Sonbert seemed to make little micro-narratives from shot to shot, and to retain the real-world specificity of the things he shot, Dorsky seems to me to try to make his edits as textually un- signifying as possible, and to subsume everything depicted into a purely formal world. (At least that's my take.)