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Dynamo
Clive Hodgson reviews Stephen Dwoskin's Dyn Amo for Oz magazine, November 1972.

The term 'art form' probably gained currency in recognition of the formal nature of art. Art exists, traditionally, as something apart from our total existence, a self-contained entity enclosed within the baundaries of its own structure. Yet one of the contradictions of art throughout its history has been the attempt to transend form and break into the realm of experience. Music and film always seemed the most likely to achieve such a breakthrougb, since both give the artist control over time, thereby affecting the audience more directly on an emotional level. And it seemed at the beginning of the Sixties that film was on the verge of making that breakthrough. This proved to be a false hope, leaving music, which did achieve the breakthrough in the second half of the decade. Rock music is now virtually inseparable from our total experience. Acid is Future Movies. Where does that leave cinema? Probably as a relic of the past,but possibly with two types of film still worth considering: (a) those reflecting and/or affecting the general culture of the time, and (b) those few films that still manage to border on experience, suggesting that cinema may yet have something new to offer. The films of Steve Dwoskin fall into the second category.
The most frequent criticism of Dwoskin's work is that it is too limited. lt's true that nearly all of his films deal with female sexuality, but just how limited you consider that to be depends on your own experience. This persistant exploration of the same subject through a dozen short films and two features has proved more a virtue than a failing on Dwoskin's part: he has achieved an intensity and range of emotions which, in his best work, is unequalled by any other filmmaker. His films are deceptively simple. The content is frequently as 'minimal' as early Warhol, but the technique is as complex as anyhing by Kenneth Anger. lt's as impossible not to re-act to a Dwoskin film as it is to know why. Like most original artists, Dwoskin is a problem, especially since we are all conditioned to formula in cinema to a greater degree than in any other media. His short work is usually shown as a 'programme', cramming in eight or nine films, all of which suffer by comparison. He also has to contend with the limitations of resources and finance (as well as the stigma) of an 'underground' filmmaker. And while the best of his short films achieve an unbelievable intensity, his first feature-length movie, Times For, showed a saddening dissipation of effect: it may have had a greater erotic power than his earlier work, but it failed to set off as many emotional connections.
Dynamo marks something of a depature for Dwoskin in that it is based on a stage play (by Chris Wilkinson). The action takes place in a strip club, and begins with a realistic treatment of a stripper going through her routine - complete with the dead moments between records that leave both the performer and the audience feeling a little ridiculous. Two more strippers perform, but the Pop music on the soundtrack is replaced by Gavin Bryars' surrealistic score, and the routines become increasingly fantasised. Is it the strippers' fantasy we are watching? Or the audience's? Or the fllmmakers? By this time it seems of little cousequence and one begins to feel that Dwoskin may be overreaching his talents. Finally, a fourth stripper appears. Her fantasy occupies the second half of the film, and Dwoskin soon dispells any doubts that may have arisen about his ability. Fantasy, though, is the wrong word here: more like a nightmare vision of reality, as the girl (Linda Marlowe, whose doll-like appearance is perfect) is teased, seduced, cajoled, beaten, humiliated and fucked into submission by the 'chorus' of four men. Just who the men are is never clear, but whoever they are, they ain't selling any alibies. They ultimately reduce the girl to something less, even, than a sex-object.
Again, Dwoskin's film seems over-long, although Dynamo's 2-hour running time is less excesive than Times For's 80 minutes. And the vague presence of a narrative line, just strong enough to engage the intellect, has the effect of alienating one from the film's erotic content (in much the same way that violence was distanced inA Clockwork Orange), whereas the narrative content of Times For was so obscure that you could happily forget about it and become lost in the erotic excesses. No matter: perfection isn't very interesting, and an original work will always infuriate even its admirers. lt's encouraging, at least, that while Times For had its first London showing at the NFT's maverick 'Underground Film Festival' two years ago, Dynamo is getting the official sanction of a London Film Festival screening. I only hope the dilettanttish eunuchs can make it through the first half, for they'll see, in the final hour, the most stunning piece of original filmmaking to reach the screen in a long time. Not an unqualified success, by any means, but a work that leaves plenty of reason to believe that Dwoskin may one day create the cinema's first erotic masterpiece.

Clive Hodgson

Clive Hodgson
Oz No.45, November
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Review of Dyn Amo, Oz Magazine 1972
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