How might a writer compose a letter inspired by an artist’s roving vision; does she address her words to one film, to a feeling? My note might equate to a single frame of celluloid film, and Laida Lertxundi offers these by the hundreds.
I first thought to form an ovation for her ability to capture, on luminous 16mm, the dusty, golden light that cloaks the whole of Southern California. I am continually awestruck by the way she records arid mountain ridges, nestled between desert and sky, in Footnotes to a House of Love (2007), filming the landscape’s expanse without sacrificing the intimacy between two lovers that peek into the frame, cradled by the vibrant earth.
Perhaps it’s her repeated imagery of women in repose—a languor depicted at once relatable and enviable in her care. Take the sprawling nude body in The Room Called Heaven (2012), resting on the bedroom floor, occasionally biting into a piece of fruit. The scene lingers before cutting to wafting shutter doors, which Lertxundi overlays with crashing waves and cumulus-dense skies. I think to write to those, too.
I ultimately arrived at a moment in her most recent film, Autoficción (2020), where, in a Los Angeles living room, a woman is splayed out on the couch listening to an LP. Lertxundi watches her writhe and tumble, then freezes the image when she looks directly into the camera—the diegetic melody starting and stopping as she catches my eye. “Time is on my side,” Irma Thomas’s voice resounds over these stills, “yes it is.” As the woman crawls on hands and knees into the verdant backyard, I embrace her labor, the high noon light, each day’s mundanity rendered exceptional through Lertxundi’s eye. Time is on her side.
Laida Lertxundi’s film Autoficción (2020) premieres at the New York Film Festival, and is streaming online October 6–11.