A small boat glides slowly down the turgid, narrow river, hemmed in on either bank by thick jungle and surrounded by a cacophony of chattering birds. A woman sits alone in the boat; the camera zooms in on her face, alert but impassive, before cutting to a panoramic view of the sea of green split by a snaking brown cut. What brought the woman here, the viewer wonders, and where is she going? The birds, bedecked in a myriad of brilliant plummages, hop restlessly from branch to branch, squawking their agitation, but the woman remains an enigma.
The preceding paragraph is a loose description of the piece ‘Theresa Russell’ from Sylvia Monnier’s album “Stock Shot & Addictive Sling”, which in turn is a meditation on the actor of the same name. All of the album’s tracks are named after stars of the silver screen, and can be thought of as vignettes or character studies of a sort. The homage to Russell isn’t the only one with a cinematographic edge, either: moody synth drifts across the outdoor café scene like cigarette smoke in ‘Delphine Seyrig’, for example, while the tension and chugging riff of ‘Dennis Hopper’ evokes the late-night image of a police detective on the trail of a killer through a city drenched in rain, mournful synth howls recalling muted trumpet.
Perhaps the strongest impression, however, and one that remains consistent across the whole album, is that nothing is quite what it seems; everything is elusive, alluding to the familiar yet remaining nameless, approaching the camera and then turning away without ever quite coming into focus. This elusiveness is intoxicating and addictive, drawing me back into the jungle again and again, I the searcher for El Dorado who always returns empty-handed, but with lots of strange, not-quite-coherent stories. In reflecting on some of its great actors, Monnier obliquely hints at cinema’s resemblance to dreams.