Capsule Review: Rock Bottom Riser

Written by Michael Clawson


Neither a nature film nor an issue film, but rather an experimental fusion of the two forms that results in an essayistic and fascinating something else entirely. The main focus, from which Silva expands outward in several thematic directions, is the proposed construction of a gigantic telescope on sacred Hawaiian land and the protests that the proposal sparked. The earth itself, however, might be considered an equally central subject, with overhead and up-close footage of lava pouring out from volcanoes serving as the film’s mesmerizing visual spine. The editing between disparate kinds of images allows for all sorts of interesting associations, some which are lightly amusing, such as a brief stop-over at a vape shop called “Volcano,” where a few dudes demonstrate serious talent for blowing smoke rings. The icing on the cake is the burbling electronic score, which sounds as if its beats are dictated by the bubble and flow of the magma.

Rock Bottom Riser Trailer

Rock Bottom Riser played as part of the 50th New Directors/New Films from Film at Lincoln Center.

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