ALCHEMICAL ROMANCE

September 2021

WE BEGIN IN THE BLACK, as the film exhales. Slowly, a jagged horizon appears against the darkly glowing empyrean. It flickers out, then returns. Another ragged lip of earth teethes a lambent sky: an awakening. Shot on 16 mm in 2015 in the Atacama Desert spanning the border between Chile and Argentina, and later blown up to a magisterial 35 mm, Daïchi Saïto’s thirty-minute experimental film earthearthearth (2021) is an optical acid trip in which the boundaries between terra firma and yawning firmament dissolve in a hallucinatory explosion of color and light.

Like Ronald Johnson’s ARK (1996), the epic poem from which its title phrase is borrowed, Saïto’s earthearthearth expresses a near-religious awe of the natural world even as it proposes that the earth’s myriad wonders only become fully perceptible through art. Within a few minutes of its opening aureole, the film’s horizon lines

— Ara Osterweil

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