Houston, here’s your chance to stare at random people without being labeled a weirdo. British artist James Nares filmed Street in Manhattan, where he lives, over the course of a week, pointing his camera out the tinted windows of an SUV and capturing New Yorkers going about their daily lives. The resulting film—think of it as an art piece, not a traditional movie—lets you really get a good look at the people caught by Nares’s lens: he trimmed down the footage to three minutes, then slowed it way down, so that three minutes of footage stretch into over an hour.
The result? A dreamlike, hypnotic, slow-motion street scene, in which the most offhand gesture—a hand pushing hair out of a face, for example—takes on new gravity. “There are a couple of moments in the film where you see people yelling at us, and I like those moments,” says Nares. “But very few people are relating to the camera; most are just being who they are.”
The project, says Nares, couldn’t have been completed anywhere else besides New York, and it serves as a tribute to his favorite city. “The only regret,” he says, “was that I hadn’t made it in the 1970s, which was a very interesting time for New York City.”
The 2011 work screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 13, at the Menil Collection, as part of this week’s Houston Cinema Arts Festival (Nov. 12–16), and it’s a perfect fit with the fest, which features screenings of dozens of movies whose themes touch on the artistic process.
Besides films, Nares, who’s coming to town for the screening, also makes paintings, sculptures, and drawings. “The medium isn’t the thing that interests me in particular, it’s the preoccupations that I have that I can find something of interest to riff on…I would say my preoccupation with time and motion are what inspired Street.”