The premise of Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s new film is simple. In a brownstone house somewhere in Brooklyn, two artists – with a combined age of nearly 160 – meet over three days to nurture each other’s talents. One is Min Tanaka, celebrated Japanese dancer. The other is free jazz pioneer, Cecil Taylor. Under the gaze of Courtin-Wilson and his cinematographer, Germain McMicking, the duo bounce off each other, clearly in tune with how the other works. The synergy they have is reflective of a 30-year friendship.
Devoid of credits and largely wordless, what you get out of The Silent Eye will be dependent on your tolerance of performance art. It’s admittedly not for everyone. However, allow the film to wash over you and you’ll uncover something rather unique. Thanks to the minimum stylising of Courtin-Wilson, The Silent Eye takes on a dreamlike quality. In a black hoody and with gaunt expression, Min wanders around Cecil’s apartment, contorting his body in dance. Is Min the spirit dancing to Cecil’s music or is Cecil trying match the stylings of the muse that dances around him? The real answer is that it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins.
Elsewhere, Cecil’s home plays as the perfect backdrop to the creation on display. A treasure of memories and moments plaster the walls and Courtin-Wilson allows us tiny moments of quiet to take them in. At times, it feels like we’re watching Cecil’s thought process before he allows his reminiscing to flood across the piano keys.
There are, perhaps, many ways to interpret the shadows that dance across the screen but when a beaming Min, after one particular session, jokingly wraps up Cecil in a red hoody, it doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to say that The Silent Eye is as much a monument to friendship as it is to gestation of creativity.
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