In the Loop: Lorna Simpson’s 11-minute movie “Call Waiting” deftly combines film noir stylishness with a cool, unsentimental outlook that is utterly contemporary. Continuously projected at Kohn Turner Gallery, this promising experiment smartly exploits its medium and context.
Shown last fall at San Diego’s InSITE ’97, Simpson’s short film is just the right length for gallery presentation. It also works as a loop. A viewer can walk in at any time and quickly figure out enough of the story line to get immediately involved. Since the loose, narrative structure neatly circles back on itself, and the end functions as a good beginning, you’ll find yourself watching scenes more than once.
In a sense, Simpson’s abbreviated piece of theater fuses the intrigue of first-run films with the comforts of reruns. It also suggests that the ways we watch movies are deeply informed by the ways we watch television: by channel-surfing in a distracted manner.
“Call Waiting” revolves around seven characters whose lines are almost entirely spoken over the phone. Privy to only one side of each conversation, viewers share some of each character’s alienation as they argue about relationships, plan trysts and struggle to sort out their variously confused lives.
In the main gallery, a dozen black-and-white stills from Simpson’s films are less intriguing. Like over-produced versions of Cindy Sherman’s fake film stills, Simpson’s shadowy photographs take themselves too seriously to convey the tragicomic subtlety of her film.
* Kohn Turner Gallery, 454 N. Robertson Blvd., (310) 854-5400, through April 19. Closed Sundays and Mondays.