Farmers hunting pheasant in the Midwest, a fleet of warships in the ocean, the wedding of an elderly couple, and a boy who deliberately throws a dog off a riverbank that’s impossible to climb. Arnaud des Pallières combines this and other archive footage that never made it to the cinema to illustrate the American dream and the sometimes-appalling American reality.
There is no dialogue, but constantly changing excerpts of music set the tone, from naively cheerful to darkly threatening. Idiosyncratic intertitles recount childhood memories, anecdotes and an allegory about people turning into sharks.
American Journal takes the form of a historical road trip in the guise of an anonymous diary. The film breathes a romantic longing for the time when the US was the undisputed center of the world. But what begins with euphoric musings about a fishing trip with father ends in a nightmare about war, indoctrination and crude consumer culture.
Nominated for Beeld en Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award