January 2021 for My Sight is Lined With Visions
Four or Five Accidents, One June..., dir. Roddy Bogawa
By Aiko Masubuchi
Four or Five Accidents, One June… (1989), one of two shorts Roddy Bogawa made in the UC San Diego MFA program, begins and ends with the distinct sound of moving between radio channels: the sound of stuttering and glitching, peaking in and out of all the possible worlds of songs, jingles, voices and cadences. Snippets of recognizable voices, studio-produced sounds or just a regular person talking is heard, before landing on a channel or personality we might want to stay on—the array of sounds make no distinction between the famous and the obscure. This familiar and nostalgic radio experience is reflected in Bogawa’s film, shot in black-and-white grainy 16mm, and set during his summer as a deliveryman for a pharmacy in San Diego.
Appearing only in voice-over, Bogawa, at first, tries to remember when he began to notice his eyesight getting worse. He says that it got to the point that he couldn’t see things even if he went up close and adds, curiously, that a specialist said it was his eyes “and not some political or historical malfunction, which was a relief.” At his job, he also sees less clearly when he tries to follow a plan to make all the deliveries on time. As the narrator, Bogawa says, “at that kind of pace, everything seems to pass by as a blur. Leaving just bits of images, sounds and impressions.” Over footage of San Diego roads taken from the front window of a moving car, Bogawa reflects that his work (not “job” but “work”—a word that can indicate both the summer gig and the film itself) is more about driving than delivering.
In the same way that we might stay a little longer on one radio channel before moving on to the next, Bogawa’s film also spends longer on some subjects over others. Interjecting Bogawa’s rumination on time, movement and his lack of clarity in vision, is the voice of young artist Moyra Davey (a contemporary of Bogawa who like him, graduated UC San Diego and Whitney ISP around the same time), who talks about the importance of a map for the sake of efficiency and structure. Does Davey’s voice represent the voice of “film education” that sandwiched Bogawa’s summer? Did that voice compel Bogawa to wonder if he saw less clearly from “a political or historical malfunction”? Over images of maps, Davey’s voice instructs, “Yes, a left turn, a right turn, a wrong turn can mean the difference between late and on-time and there was a need to be on time with deliveries as much in film time.” As Davey’s critiquing voice insists on a plan and a rigid sense of keeping time, Bogawa introduces Mrs. Miller (prompted by Davey announcing, “This is actually a good place to take a short detour, that is, if we don’t get too sidetracked”), who is an old lady running a bed and breakfast and who, like Bogawa, is also slowly losing her eyesight, though her, to glaucoma.
As if to push back on Davey’s continuous interruptions, which eventually disappear, the film is indeed continuously side-tracked thereon as an interview with Mrs. Miller (which Davey says is too long) leads into images of Pancho Villa, followed by an anecdote of the time that Bogawa was questioned about a young woman who was being investigated by the police for doing drug deliveries for her father—a Hollywood producer. After a sequence of what seems like a reenactment or a fictitious rendering of the young woman (“Mindee with two e’s”) telling her side of the story, the film ends with a series of tabloid-y anecdotes about Judy Garland’s private life, illustrated by images of the locations where they occur. But the nature of a side-track is that even when the directions change, the paths are still connected: Mrs. Miller’s house is full of portraits of Pancho Villa and like Pancho Villa, Mindee is a marked person. Bogawa (the literal and metaphorical driver of the film) is a constant too: both he and Mrs. Miller have deteriorating visions, and he’s delivering drugs, like Mindee, though in each case, for different reasons.
With each pause at a location along the drive that Bogawa’s film takes, what would have been just blurs or glitches in passing become entryways into stories. Four or Five Accidents, One June… isn’t an argument keen on delivering the right things at the right time according to an agreed-upon rule. Instead, Bogawa delivers the path itself, according to the twists and turns that a conversation full of anecdotes may take. The resulting film—through a sunny, suburban dérive in a car—is an antidote against a structured and rigid time, towards a more personal and free-wheeling one.
Aiko Masubuchi is an independent film curator, producer and translator based in Tokyo and New York.