Measure Taken. 1984. USA. Directed by Harald Vogl. Written and with cinematography by Vogl, Andrew Bergen, Joan Waltemath, Seth Tillett. With Jessica Nares, Earl Garett Jr., Tom Wright, Jan Reds. Digital video from Super8mm. 81 min.
The series’ latest Harald Vogl feature (from 1984) completes the filmmaker’s gradual movement away from narrative toward a vérité-style essay film. Gone are the post-punk streets of the East Village, replaced with on-the-ground footage of antiwar protests and visitors to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, and observational scenes of union parades, marching bands, street dancers, and Chinatown residents back in Manhattan. What results is a varied, multicultural study of bodies in motion; a poetic, if not political, reflection on race, class, and age within the urban experience. A sense of rhythm and musicality replaces cinematic storytelling in structuring the work, with the vocal and physical actions enriched by the seamless editing between long camera takes. The film’s bookends can be taken as indicative of its perspective: Toward the start, rare documentation of famed countertenor Julius Eastman accentuates his intense focus and virtuosic performance of German baroque compositions through a fixed frame; the coda is a dreamlike assemblage of statements intoned by a multiracial cast of actors addressing the camera in unison on themes of violence and utopia. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.