Cal (Calvin Engime), Evelyn (Evelyn Emile) and their
friends listen to lectures, observe buildings, recite poems, transcribe quotes
from library books, try their hand at writing. Although this is present-day
Philadelphia, there are no computers in sight.
A discussion group about Dante provides this disparate
bunch with their sole communal focal point; otherwise, they each drift about,
attending plays or concert rehearsals … “So what else have you been up to,
Cal?”, an older mentor asks, and Cal’s response is typical of the film’s style
and method: “Just the usual: reading, writing.”
The characters’ quiet, “classical” passions for
poetry, architecture and the history of religions are mirrored in the seeming
asceticism of their modest daily lives. They walk and talk, exchange literary
references, summarise episodes and accounts from the past that intrigue them.
The monologue form comes easily to these people –
especially to Cal, in a marathon seven-and-a-half minute take; or to his mentor
as he demonstrates the structure of a Beethoven piano trio.
There is no seemingly intellectual rivalry or sexual
tension to cloud these cerebral interactions. Only a single, upsetting question
at a social event, almost 50 minutes into this short feature, causes Evelyn to
slightly crack, accusing Cal of smugness in his interactions with others. Yet
even this moment of disquiet gets instantly folded back into the flow …
Shot in austere 16 millimetre, Classical Period is a cross between the lean irony of Éric Rohmer,
the rigorous minimalism of Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub (about whom
Fendt edited an excellent book), and the everyday miniatures of Australian
filmmaker Bill Mousoulis.
© Adrian Martin September 2018