During my Daily Internet Musings™, I happened upon an interesting Q&A session featuring James Benning on his film 13 Lakes, which is excerpted in the video above. Like many of Benning’s films, the concept is simple and self-explanatory: 13 statics shots of 13 lakes across the country, each one lasting about ten minutes.
I’ve partaken in numerous discussions about Benning, usually with people who espouse grand theories of hidden subtext that supposedly run throughout his films. Personally, I’ve always maintained that Benning doesn’t operate under such channels and that his films are as matter-of-fact as they appear. That’s not to say they aren’t brimming with ideas—13 Lakes, for example, is a splendid take on cinematic ontology and the possibilities therein. But in terms of broad, grandiose statements, when it comes to Benning, a mere contextual reading is usually enough to suffice.
So forgive me for feeling vindicated upon listening to this Q&A—which took place at the LA Film Forum—in which Benning, coming off as self-effacing and tastefully pragmatic, explains that the film, more or less, is simply about lakes.