"Baltimore City Paper" - october19, 2005

"DVD & Conquer"

Story of a Fructiferous Society


Genre: Experimental

Review by: Bret McCabe

THE MOVIE A medieval illustration of an eye appears on screen. Snatches of language sounds-"oi," "en," "tur"-flash on-screen, accompanied by their sound on the soundtrack. Subtitles argue various ideas about language-from Flann O'Brien, Herodotus, Umberto Eco-or tell stories, such as that of 16th-century Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake. Footage from a 1981 performance piece in Montreal features a man kissing people while saying the word "pleasure" in 26 different languages. A tattooed arm-is that an arm?-flashes on-screen next to a chart about vines and plants. Outlines for a language experiment are listed. Clips from Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser are intercut into the barrage of text about German secret societies of languages and Esperanto. And it all comes in such unrelenting waves that it can appear like a mad, disorganized confusion, like one of those indoctrinating films from a paranoid 1970s flick.

Just don't mistake the appearance of confusion for an actual lack of order, because The Story of a Fructiferous Society is actually a highly detailed, organized, and well-argued linguistic treatise. The 246th movie from Baltimore's former experimental-everything presence and current Pittsburgh resident tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, Fructiferous offers both introduction and discourse on an original language, one that doesn't abstract meanings from sounds. If all this reads a little too much like eating your Brussels sprouts, stay away-it wasn't made for you anyway. But if the idea of a Foucaultian foray into linguistics theory examining the difference between "communication" and "understanding"-all spiced with a healthy sense of humor-sounds even mildly appealing, you'll find more than you can handle in one sitting with Fructiferous.

THE DVD Divided into 51 chapters-tENT also considers the DVD an e-book-that total 86 minutes, the film becomes a hallucinatory experience of repeated sounds and images that slowly sink under the skin. Sometimes the A/V combination feels like it's illustrating a point: The brain starts to associate certain meaningless sounds with images through mere repetition, spotlighting the arbitrariness inherent in the central tenets of modern linguistics. Elsewhere, the dreamlike imagery produces strange sensations, such as when images of Braille, subtitles, and implied narratives suggest a reading of the pages by touch. And it's these odd touches that make the film so engrossing-though its subject is rather heavy and obtuse mental lifting, it isn't some purely intellectual endeavor designed to make viewers believers in anything, or even to be "understood" in a banal, reading-comprehension sort of way. It feels more like an experience to prod some part of consciousness awake, just to let it know that it can't trick itself into believing everything it assumes as fact.


to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page

to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page

to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience

to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important

for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..

for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH

to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)