I forgot to post this review of Benway’s Deathbed, by Only Magazine‘s esteemed film critic, Adam O. Thomas.
As a film critic and writer it is my pleasure to watch all kinds of work whether it be big Hollywood blockbusters or little independent films. As such I have watched your “experimental” film Benway’s Deathbed a few times now as it is thankfully short and feel like I may be able to offer some insight as to what it means.
Take the first frame. It is a perforated film frame that precedes the title. This obviously intentional recognition of source is a welcome reminder of a time now long gone. That single frame signals an awareness of the artifice of cinematic construction about to follow, a powerful signal that this is just a film. The simple credits underscore the complicated imagery that lies at the heart of the film and the playful cast credit of “unknown saxophonist” underscores the mystical and philosophical possibilities the film reflects. As if saying “the name is not important but the effect remains.” A truly brave statement in a time of endless categorization.
The lingering camera work blends with the tender jazz score to create a haunting atmosphere of uncertainty. We watch, constantly searching for clues, yet the images languish back and forth denying us any, what we film writers would call, action. Murky and bewildering, comparisons to Bergman are inevitable and are overtly reinforced by the scene of a man playing chess against the stuffed bird. Which also invokes a sense of tension because it could also be Hitchcock…but with far fewer birds, so its not quite as scary.
The simplicity of the relationship to music and muse as reflected in the relationship between the saxophonist and the girl is a tender reminder of the simple beauty in life, being sensual or sonic and this operates in powerful contrast to the nihilistic imagery of the aforementioned man versus bird chess match.
Of course all of this could be “bullshit” and the film, made something like 40 years ago could simply be the work of a drug addled beatnik on pot or in the throws of an LSD bender, but it is unlikely you were drunk at the time because so much of the film is in focus. I hope this helps you understand the film you made and also gives you some insight into the powerful and fascinating job we film writers have. Please if you have other films, don’t hesitate to send them somewhere else.
You can watch the film again here, no extra charge.