Using behind-the-scenes stills from websites showing tricks of photographic image-manipulation, Guthrie Lonergan's "Professional Berry Visuals" ([YouTube] and see earlier post) creates a new! and improved! kind of fabricated narrative.
The video intercuts three groups of shots: (i) slick, food-stylist strawberries plopped into a glass of sangria (with an exciting splash), (ii) views of a tabletop with lighting and camera-positioning for these shots, and (iii) professionally-mounted images of strawberries on a display rack in a crowded trade show.
Stills from these groups repeat several times, mimicking a step by step tutorial. Watched with half an eye (the way we see most TV), we might think this is a singular story, for example, "I got my photos into the food fair and here's how I did them." Yet the food-fair strawberries aren't being dropped into a glass, they're arranged in a cluster, and the "fair" is actually an electronics convention -- what's on display isn't the berries but the flatscreen TV they appear on. The discrepancies might be a mistake, or a typical night on Fox News, but Lonergan shows them again and again. The repetition perversely reinforces a connection we know doesn't exist.
One logical sequence, or subroutine, can be found within this how-not-to: The trade show segment unfolds in a semi-dramatic fashion as we approach the display rack from behind, swing around the side, and then view the berries in all their polished glory. Another note of drama, typical of documentary films, is a technique let's call "stab and zoom." Each time a new photo appears, a hard piano note sounds and the fade of the note is timed perfectly with a slow zoom deeper into the image. You might see this at the start of a movie trailer but there the stabs would come faster and faster until finally an announcer pulled it all together with a dramatic tag line. Lonergan delivers neither the speed nor the explanatory payoff: a sense of expectation is created but the sequence just repeats.
The absurdity of this repetition is heightened by Lonergan's MIDI score, a catchy if slightly doom-laden theme with jaunty bassoons accompanying the piano ostinato. Completely out of sync emotionally with the pedestrian berry images, the music lends added continuity, weight, and purpose to the video, much in the same way that political ads convince us an issue or candidate has a raison d'être besides hackery, ego-striving, or propaganda for shadowy oligarchic interests.