In the Film Lost Book Found by Jem Cohen (37 minutes 1996), the narrator finds a notebook the belongs to a street person. But, unfortunately, he haggled with the man over the selling price of the notebook. He thinks ten dollars is too high, so he holds firms and lets the man leave with the notebook. Once the man is gone he realizes his mistake and wants to buy the notebook at any price, but he can’t find the man again. So, he decides to reconstruct the notebook based on the brief look the man showed him. The notebook had notes about what are seemly random incidents and events around New York City, and was influenced by Walter Benjamin who wrote about idling around the streets of Paris in a very exciting historical time. His unfinished book is called The Passagenwerk or The Arcades Project, and considered a forerunner to Postmodernism. Walter Benjamin was forced to kill himself, rather than be killed by the Nazis in 1940.
As the film goes on the narrator begins to realize the notebook was about the Grand Theory of Everything. The random notes would somehow be tied together to create an overall picture that would explain the meaning of life. This idea was also mentioned by Stanisław Lem.
I saw Lost Book Found on the Sundance Channel or The Independent Film Channel, and I captured it using an early TiVo. I read on You Tube Lost Book Found was also shown by the BBC. The images are very dreamlike. Shot in mostly black and white, like Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the film looks at neighborhoods in New York City. When color is used, the colors are dark and cloudy invoking a melancholy mood on a dreary foggy day. Lost Book Found is a very hard to find film, so if you get a chance to see it on TV or a film festival be sure not to miss it.
The reason the Movie is called Lost Book Found is the narrator has the good fortunate to find the book that someone else wrote, and has lost or given away “The Lost Book”. He loses the book, when he does not buy it. He spends time trying to recreate the book until he “finds” the book again. I read an incorrect description of this film online saying the narrator found the book. If the narrator still had access to the book the mystery of the meaning of the book would be gone. Only in looking for the book, he finds real meaning. Having the book would not be the same as, looking for the book.
Another similar film is “Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees” by David Blair 1991. I rented this film as a VHS tape from a Video Store called Le Video on Irving Street in San Francisco. I liked it so much, I made a copy of the tape with another VCR. I don’t have a copy of this film anymore, and the film is not available on DVD or Streaming Service as far as know, but it can be watched on Youtube. William Burroughs has a cameo role as James HiveMaker. The movie is kind of confused, and does not have very much of plot, but is another movie that brings you a kind of dream like state of contentment once you let go of the idea of trying to make any sense of the movie. As I recall HiveMaker is a sort of doctor or scientist who is instrumental in bringing Television to the Bees. Now that Bees are dying around the world, what implication does this film have for modern times? An episode of the show Dark Mirror on Netflix in which Bees have to be replaced by robot bees in order to pollinate plants. A hacker gains control of the robot bees, and uses them to punish people with assassination by robot bee.
I have to add that Jem Cohen (born 1962) has nothing to do with Jem and Holograms. His first name is Jem. I used to wonder if his name was really Gem and Jem was a misspelling.
I have not read The Arcades Project, but basically it seems that Walter Benjamin, between 1927 and 1940, went around the streets of Paris and took notes about what he observed. These observations could be considered a historical record from a time in which film and photos were very expensive to use.
“The solemn, reflective, tranquil character of the Parisian mealtime is measured
less by the particular dishes served than by the stillness that surrounds you in the
restaurant, whether it be before uncovered tables and plain white walls or in a
carpeted and richly furnished dining room. Nowhere does one find the hubbub
of a Berlin restaurant, where patrons like to give themselves airs and where food
is only a pretext or necessity ” From The Arcades Project p. 829
In “Lost Book Found” Jem Cohen goes around New York City taking valuable video which records and saves history like a time capsule from the past waiting to be unwrapped in the future.