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Jeanette Iljon
Starting with a semi-still of a toddler wearing a party hat and sitting in his excited mother's lap, a title is superimposed after about a minute: "That's Entertainment".

On the most literal level, we see the magician's performance to a crowd of delighted or scared children and their indulgent parents as a metaphor for the experience of watching a film. The willing suspension of disbelief induced by the hypnotic sequence of moving images that are not really moving at all links up with a desire not to know how the trick is done. The conjuror could be an allegory for the action of cinematic spectacle, the pleasures of suture, of emotional investment in what you know is not real but seems more real at that moment than anything else. Though this is the most immediately palpable analogy, and even perhaps an obvious one, other analogies, a multiplicity of associations, suggestions, intuitions emerge out of this throughout the film. The variable speed and framing, the depth of field that ranges from medium focus to granular close-ups, the difference in contrast, the fluidity of transition between action and rapt stillness - all these start to construct a genealogy of the film image that draws parallels between recollected time, experienced time, and filmic time.

The manipulation of the film stock through the optical printer acts as a visual reminder of how images are subjectively ordered and transformed, with isolated moments or faces being held for longer before they dissolve into the chemical substrate of the film, as they dissolve into the relentless elasticity of consciousness. These privileged moments of the film, a close-up normally indexed to high drama or epiphany, appear over and over in the film, with one of the children's faces presented and re-presented in moments of awe, confusion, elation, discomfort, reacting to the magician's act. Each time the close-up looks slightly different, and the image quality also brings with it specific contexts - once it looks like a photo from an archive, sometimes it looks like a still of lost star in an irrevocably decayed 1920s film, sometimes a clip of a baffled victim in candid news footage of a disaster, each type of socially demarcated image trailing another set of affective elements for the viewer. The mutability of the image is like the instability of a truth or the indexical relation of image to fact that we reflexively assign to footage marked as 'documentary'. Here it's enacting a vital trope of structural filmmaking. It is rendering visible or overt the plasticity of the image and arbitrary nature of assemblage, with the visual matter of the magic act foregrounding this tension between veracity and illusion.

Still from the That's Entertainment.... (The Conjuror's Assistant) by Jeanette Iljon, 1979
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