Happy Accidents

From: zryd (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Mar 25 2007 - 18:55:15 PDT

Phil Hoffman's _The Road Ended at the Beach_ is about (among other
things) the failure of trying to recreate the spirit of the Beats and
the 'on the road' aesthetics, which includes a nice scene w Robert Frank
in Nova Scotia. It 'dramatizes' the reversion to what Vera calls "Plan
B" in interesting ways.

It's available from the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre:

  Road Ended at the Beach, The

  (Hoffman, Phil, 1983, 33 minutes, colour, sound)


In making this film I collected images and sound over six years of
travel (not continuous) through Canada. Keeping daily both filmic and
written records, I focused on people and places, my relationships to
them, and the changes that occurred between each visit. I would collect
these images freely: later to examine and make meaning of during the
editing process. In this film I started to consciously pursue the
relationship between a formal chronicle of events and my memory of those
events. (PH)

“The film is a series of ‘telling’ incidents in which events, which fall
short of expectations, are confronted by more ‘vibrant’ memories of the
past. The subject, the filmmaker /diarist, whose consciousness
encompasses this flow or passage of time, uses failure to make his
strongest points about the convergence and intermingling of anticipation
and event, experience and memory. On the road, he and his friends spend
time with an old buddy who makes his own music at home but has to play
in a military band to earn a living, forcing them to come to terms with
their own diminished expectations on the trip they are undertaking as
compared to trips in the past. The story of a woodcarver who lives with
his family in rural Nova Scotia seems idyllic until we find that he must
also work in a fish cannery to survive.

“The film itself is an account of failure. Spurred on by the mythology
of Jack Kerouac and his life on the road, the travelers visit Robert
Frank in order to learn more about the Beats. Frank matter-of-factly
dismisses their quest by noting that Kerouac is dead and the Beat era is
over. In a partial response to this shattering myth, the filmmaker goes
over the ground of the journey once again, only this time he includes
the frustrations, the dead-ends and the low spots. The smooth, linearly
developing narrative that we earlier understood to be the product of the
filmmakers’ consciousness is now questioned and replaced by a series of
stops and starts, memories and reveries.

“The final sequence of the film marks this re-evaluation and change most
emphatically. The sequence shows a beach in Newfoundland on a bright
clear day, children and dogs crossing in front of the camera. Yet each
time someone disappears off-frame the filmmaker jump-cuts to a new
action. On the beach where the roads ends discontinuity becomes a
virtue, a form of concentration that validates exceptional experience,
just as recollection and anticipation validate certain memories and
fantasies.” - David Poole

“Phil Hoffman’s work is very much work about what it is to take a
picture of some incident, of what happens to the relationship between
the camera and the subject: it’s very much concerned with the nature of
photography, and with questions of time that one would expect people who
are interested in photography to deal with. I mean a photograph is
always from the past and one of his films is about trying to go back to
the Beat period and resurrect it, so he can turn back to a photograph
and resurrect the past, in a sense, and what he finds out, of course, is
that the past is unrecoverable.” - Bruce Elder, Cinema Canada

Michael Zryd
Associate Professor
Department of Film, CFT 223
York University
4700 Keele St.
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, CANADA
tel: 416-736-5149
fax: 416-736-5710
email suppressed
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.