Thursday, 1 July 2010


Challenging the tenets of the documentary, Sharon Lockhart’s hour-long film Goshogaoka portrays a routine performed by a girls’ high school basketball team. The film opens with the team running laps of their school hall-cum-gymnasium, introducing the stage space of this balletic piece as well as its ‘characters’. To a repetitive chant, the girls warm up their bodies with a series of exercises. The monotone of the chant serves to underline the functionality of the drills, with only minor slip-ups in keeping the rhythm together. The exercises progress for about forty minutes before the girls change into tracksuits to act out preparation for a match. The film comprises six still shots more or less equal in length, and the camera never moves from its fixed position, the closed red theatre curtains looming over like a spectator.

Though minimalist in terms of how it operates as a film, Goshogaoka appears to reference other borderline cinematic works, such as Frederick Wiseman’s documentary High School, or Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 1. Lockhart worked closely with ballet choreographer Stephen Galloway to produce a routine for the girls to perform that looked realistic but also benefitted the film’s aesthetics, and the effect is convincing. One interesting shot sees pairs of basketball players throwing the balls to one another, a practice which gradually falls out of rhythm and becomes a piece of visual syncopation. Beautifully composed with subtle yet sinister sound design, Goshogaoka is an unclassifiable piece of art, deceptive in its role but a nonetheless magnetising watch.

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