UNDERGROUND USA: INDIE CINEMA OF THE 80s - Talking to Strangers

Echoing the tour de force compositional dynamos of high-minded Europe—Antonioni, Godard, and Bela Tarr—Rob Tregenza’s inarguably ambitious debut feature, Talking To Strangers, brought rigorous mise-en-scène to the streets of the crumbling Baltimore of the 80s, and also to the American independent film circuit. Tregenza—known as a fixture of the UCLA scene (he received his PhD in 1982) and cinematographer to Béla Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies), Claude Miller (Marching Band), and Alex Cox (Three Businessmen), among others—shot the conceptually driven feature in 9 single takes, each spanning one reel of 35mm film. Each take is an episode in and of itself, the scenes tied together loosely by the presence of one character, an enigmatic young man who falls into lyrical and absurd conversations and interactions, in what amounts to a film intellectually and formally ambitious in a way rarely seen in the US at the time of its release.

Hand-selected by Jean-Luc Godard—who called Tregenza’s blend of fiction and reality “softly and strongly imbued with the marvelous”—for screening at TIFF, Talking to Strangers is a rare 80s curio, and an unmissable component of Underground USA.

Dir. Rob Tregenza, 1988, 35mm, 90 min.