"The Great Flood," an all-archival clip documentary revisiting the events and effects of the devastating Mississippi River flood of 1927, is by turns hypnotic, playful, wildly evocative and even a bit trippy. But most of all it's a unique, highly immersing audio-visual experience that would be as at home in a museum as it is in a movie theater — and that's a first-order compliment.
Experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison ("Decasia,"
Morrison organizes his footage, much of which is decayed in ways that lend the picture a vibrant, strangely artistic glow, into mostly successive chapters: "Swollen Tributaries," "Levees," "Evacuation,"
Memorably enhancing the movie's time capsule vibe is a bravura sequence that whips and zips its way through an entire 1927 Sears Roebuck catalog.
Guitarist-composer Bill Frisell's wall-to-wall, bluesy-jazzy soundtrack beautifully reflects and unifies the visuals while also helping to personalize this distinct endeavor. It's a terrific achievement.
"The Great Flood." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.