A new film premiered last year that is truly one of a kind. whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir was made by Eve Sussman and her collaborators, known as the Rufus Corporation. They shot most of the footage in Kazakhstan, improvising the script and taking advantage of the Soviet Union’s once-grand utopian architectural schemes, now crumbling. (Kurt Andersen comments that the locations look as though “somebody had given Godard $250 million.”)
The feel is 1970s-paranoid-sci-fi-thriller. An American engineer, Holz, gets a job in a mysterious foreign place called City A, and “starts finding out things are wrong,” explains Sussman. “The water supply seems to be drugged with lithium, time seems to be slowing down, people are running out of language. The people who hired him may not be who he thinks they are. Everything is a little bit beyond his control.”
But Sussman decided to edit the film in an unorthodox way. Working with programmer Jeff Garneau, Sussman designed a computer system that assembles thousands of clips of footage, voiceovers, and scoring elements in an ever-changing succession. There is no one version of whiteonwhite. “The things I liked the most in my films and in other people’s films were the things that happened by serendipity, that happened out of luck. And so I started wondering, could we build a machine that would give us more luck than we could ever have in real life?”
She calls the program the Serendipity Machine. “We start the computer before the audience enters, and it will always order in a different way, so there is no beginning middle or end, and it runs forever.”
Sussman's film is state-of-the-art technology, but it's not trendy. “Because it’s a computer-driven, the first thing people ask is, ‘Is it interactive? I want to get in there and tell it to show me only the shots of birds [for example].’ My response to that is, it’s a movie, and you’re the audience!” she says. “You are interacting with it by filling in the gaps between the narratives.”
The trailer below is just one sample of the movie; since whiteonwhite changes with each screening, it will never run exactly this way again. You can watch an online version of the film here.
(Originally aired: December 16, 2011)
White on White Movie SoundtrackArtist: Eve Sussman/The Rufus CorporationAlbum: White on White Movie Soundtrack