Rising Tide, 2004

In a way, Robert Todd’s Rising Tide represents a continuation on the themes of obsolescence and disposability that runs through Our Former Glory and In Loving Memory, a reverent, quietly observed collage on the changing face of manual labor that, like Johan van der Keuken’s Springtime: Three Portraits, captures a way of life that is slowly becoming extinct in the face of technology, globalism, and mass production. Filmed around the increasingly gentrified city of Rye in suburban Westchester, New York (home of historic Rye Playland amusement park), the three-part, mixed composition structure of the film becomes, itself, a reflection of the area’s transformation. The first part is a portrait of aging master watchmaker, Konrad Brzezinski and his wife Ursula who, 55 years earlier, opened the Rye Clock and Jewel repair shop. Graduating from black and white to color, silence to sound, that visually suggests the evolution of film as a metaphor for the technological revolution that now renders these artisanal, cottage industries obsolete, the fragmented montage of assorted gear works, mechanisms, fasteners, stamped metals, and watch faces are presented against the steady rhythm of ticking and chiming clocks, paralleling the motion of the time pieces with the rotation of Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds along the boardwalk – a constant reminder of progression and displacement as a marking of time.

The second part captures the ruminations of second-generation shoemaker, Tony Ioveno who has watched his fortunes rise and fall along a series of rented storefronts within the community as inexpensive, mass-produced shoes and sneakers become the staple of everyday wear. Juxtaposing shots of Ioveno at work replacing the heels and soles of shoes as he explains the circumstances that have compelled to accept a profit-sharing arrangement as a sub-store to a dry cleaning service after his original shop was burned down in a suspicious fire, Todd illustrates the ramifications of short-sighted consumerism, where a disposable economy driven by novelty and affordability has supplanted the intangible ideals of workmanship and durability.

In the third part, service station owner and Corvette restorer, Joe Lamberti places his struggle to remain financially afloat within the context of the town’s rapidly transforming economic landscape, as generations-owned buildings and family businesses continue to fold, replaced by corporate chain stores capable of bankrolling increasingly prohibitive rental and operating costs. Commenting on the changing face of automotive repair that has created a highly competitive market for computer savvy mechanics capable of troubleshooting the complex electronics systems of modern day automobiles, Lamberti’s observation echoes the sentiment of Brzezinski and Ioveno, a sense that craftsmanship has become outmoded and irrelevant in the conduct of day to day business in their struggle for survival, where profitability lies in impersonal, high volume transactions, indistinguishability, and planned obsolescence.

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