Ricky D’Ambrose’s Notes on an Appearance is one of the most idiosyncratic feature debuts at this year’s NDNF. As with Ambrose’s NDNF-programmed short film Spiral Jetty, the scenario here is rife with genre appeal: A young man from a moneyed background disappears shortly after returning to New York City. D’Ambrose, though — working in the micro-budget range — resists expectation with his distinctive archival sense and his attention to detail. Notes progresses largely through spare sets and neoclassical framings, museum-like compositions and inserts of letters, newspapers, and magazines.
Steeped in the milieu of New York’s so-called cultural elite and finely tuned to a sardonic, insider-view of the very same, the film is almost entomological in its chilly, microscopic precision. In its incessant flow of words and images, Notes confronts the essential barrenness of the cultural landscape on display — as exemplified here by a three-person panel on translation — and the paradoxically vapid attempts at filling the void. (“At your age you should be placing pieces in as many outlets as possible,” proffers one individual.) Towards the end, low-grade digital footage of a pre-9/11 city skyline — a foundational image of loss — seems to ask: Where have we really gone from here?
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2018 | Dispatch 2.