Film of the Week: Unguided Tour

In Susan Sontag’s Unguided Tour (1983), the past subsumes the present. Sontag emphasizes the stories permeating underneath the camera’s frame; the essence and memory of things. An unnamed couple walk through Venice. The woman (Lucinda Childs) ruminates on the parallels between the city and her relationship, both faltering. Sontag directs and edits Unguided Tour as to disrupt the continuity between images and sound. An airplane lands. People disembark. The scene plays on, but the audio overhead exists in another space and time: a hotel receptionist on the phone-line, speaking with a woman who wants to book a room in Venice. The city becomes a trapping for incoming wanderers who can’t escape from the past. The protagonist confesses to her lover (Claudio Cassinelli), “About memory, even the memories which don’t belong to us. In memory. One arrives in Venice with a heart full of soothed memories. One comes here to look back on with regret. One is allowed to do that…Here.” The film, like its protagonist, feels adrift. Scenes don’t segue in a chronological order so much as they fade in and out of one another, as if attempting to recall a long-forgotten dream.

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