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TALKING TO STRANGERS (1988) by Rob Tregenza has been considered by some as one of the most stylistically audacious and critically praised dramatic feature debuts in North American independent cinema. It consists of only nine ten minute segments. Each shot/sequence was filmed only once in 35mm film with direct sound. The complexity and ground breaking originality of these shots has obtained widespread international acclaim. Nominated by the IFP/West "Spirit" Awards in 1990 in two categories. Best First Director and Best Cinematography.
FESTIVALS: Berlin (Panorama), Toronto, Edinburgh, Montreal Festival of New Cinema, and Turin.
SYNOPSIS: TALKING TO STRANGERS , 90 mins, 35mm stereo, 1 to 1:85
Jesse a would be artist is cast adrift in the urban sprawl of a decaying East Coast city. The "strangers" he encounters are windows into that existence in all its humor, anger and violence.
JEAN-LUC GODARD'S comments on "Talking To Strangers" in 1996 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Dave Kehr, CHICAGO TRIBUNE (November 4th, 1988)
"TALKING TO STRANGERS is a true independent film...
In his first feature film Tregenza has accomplished an astonishing thing, TALKING TO STRANGERS blends the kind of formal experimentation associated with directors on the farthest fringe of the avant-guarde (Michael Snow and Jean-Luc Godard) with a genuine interest in drama and character. It is a narrative film, but it builds its narrative in a new and provocative ways.
TALKING TO STRANGERS offers the viewer an unusual degree of freedom---the freedom to decide the tone, to construct the lead character, to invent a plot that might connect the different episodes-- but with that freedom comes a moral responsibility. It's up to us to designate the heroes and the villains, the victims and the aggressors, and the decision is never a simple one.
Films as unsettling as this seldom find commercial distribution, and TALKING TO STRANGERS alas, is no exception."
Jonathan Rosenbaum, THE CHICAGO READER --- ****--- "a masterpiece" (If you are interested in knowing why... the entire review is reprinted in J. Rosenbaum's excellent new book of film criticism "MOVIES AS POLITICS" published by University of California Press c. 1997 ISBN 0 520-20614-2)
The TTS "Capsule Review" in the Reader by Jonathan Rosenbaum
"Rob Tregenza's excitingly new Baltimore-made independent feature, shot in wide-screen 35-millimeter and Dolby sound, consists of only nine shots, each a ten-minute take. Each shot features the same character (Ken Gruz), a young man whose identity appears to shift somewhat from one sequence to the next (in terms of his occupation and whether he is a local or a drifter); in the first and last shots he is alone, and in the seven intervening sequences--the order of which was determined at random--he encounters one or more strangers. The existential suspense underlying this remarkably open work is a function of many factors operating at once.
The sequences range from dramatic (a female potter who has slept with the hero the previous night provokes his ire by admitting that she used to be stripper and, possibly, a prostitute) and action packed (a nihilistic, punkish gang takes over a bus and rapes a passenger) to enigmatic (the hero tries to engage in conversation with fellow passengers on a taxi boat) and minimalist (the hero walks for several city blocks, and almost boards three separate buses). Each sequence was shot only once, so the possibility of accident and error hovers over every moment suspensefully, as in a jazz improvisation. The virtuoso camera movements and stereo sound lead to gradual and unpredictable expositions of physical space; the variety of acting styles creates a feeling of perpetual uncertainty about the registers of reality underlying each sequence. And the philosophical content of certain scenes--e.g., in a soup kitchen and in a confessional--raises additional questions. Alternately comic, disturbing, challenging, and demanding, this is a galvanizing, high-level game for adventurous spectators, and a truly remarkable first feature."
John Powers LA WEEKLY, "Fresh and daring... a smart, wicked, formally audacious portrait of the artist as a young asshole. ..Tregenza's movie is far more serious, inventive and challenging than "Stranger Than Paradise. It is a movie about how filmmakers talk to strangers---and how they (and we) might do things differently."
FILM COMMENT: "Masturbatory...decadent."
Vincent Canby. NEW YORK TIMES "A nearly perfect antidote to today's jazzy conception of montage... an original and witty intelligence behind the technical elan."
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RobTregenza has directed three features TALKING TO STRANGERS (1988), THE ARC(1991) and