Beautiful, but troubled. That’s how I describe Sharon Lockhart’s Pine Flat. The film consists of a dozen shots, each ten minutes in length. The film is broken into two sections by a ten minuite intermission. Each shot is composed of a static camera, intensly focused on children posed in lush Northern California wilderness. The soundtrack is a subtle blending of ambient sounds from various times and locations around the Pine Flat area.
Admittedly, Lockhart is a structuralist. A mentee of James Benning, Pine Flat takes on the structure of his more recent films. Between the two of them, the ten minute take is becoming something of a trope. Where Benning captures sky and lakes, Lockhart directs children. Her voice is absent from the soundtrack, but her fingerprints are seen throughout the frame.
I hold nothing against Lockhart for directing her subjects. What disturbs me is her commitment to structure. During the screening’s question and answer session Lockhart told the audience how hard it was for her to trim the film down from 18 wonderfully gorgeous shots to the final 12 shots that make up the film. Feeling that her film had to be two 60 minute blocks, composed of 6 ten minute shots was more important than presenting 6 more images of children and landscape. She puts the structure of the film before her interest in the children. I find this both sad and curious.