The Station to Station train’s final stop at Jack London Square in Oakland, Calif. (Ye Rin Mok)
Station to Station may cover 4,000 miles of territory as its artists cross the United States on a train, with stops for various performances, but it has the strange feeling of existing outside of the present time and space. This documentary directed by Doug Aitken works best as a showcase for talented artists from various media who would otherwise receive little coverage or recognition for their work.
The subjects covered by the film are so diverse that at times the film seems to be a real-life embodiment of a Stefon sketch from “Saturday Night Live” about New York’s hottest clubs. This train does in fact feature EDM artists, painters, hippies, gospel singers and even a marching band. Only a little person seems missing to complete the atmosphere, although this may be included in the eventual director’s cut.
This gives Station to Station a playful feeling as it zips through its short films by each artist one by one, allowing essentially only a minute on each. While greater time could be spent on most of these people, the quick glimpses into such varied people’s lives allows for constant surprise: What will the film cover next?
Despite the presence of artists whose work is specifically modern – a specialist in electronic dance music could hardly create music before computer technology – Station to Station presents its various artists as somewhat of throwbacks to the counterculture era of Ken Kesey. Even the use of a train to travel across the country contributes to this feel. A train is the least modern of our modern transportation technology, a quirky choice for travel in an era where planes are far more efficient for movement and teleconferencing often removes the need for travel altogether.
Station to Station is a celebration of people of tremendous talent, most of whom will never be known to mainstream audiences. Even if it provides just a glimpse of each of these talents, it succeeds in giving them the recognition they deserve.
Station to Station
In theaters Aug. 21
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