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Stuart Croft
The Loss Leader was followed by Rococo 55 (36 min, 2001-02), filmed almost entirely on sets whose artifice and cheap construction highlight the artifice of the movie itself: not only as a physical construct, but also as a linguistic one.

Not only are we faced with a series of conventions alluding to various cinematic genres - by now a familiar Croft concern - we find references to other tropes of visual language, specifically to harbingers of mid-twentieth century culture such as Barnett Newman, Dan Flavin and John Ford.

Once again Croft uses slow dissolves to make seamless the transition between five separately-shot scenarios, while simultaneously co-opting the convention of the telephone call (another cinematic trope) to establish a link between characters in successive scenes. The fact that each telephone conversation is near identical, and that the same small cast of actors constantly reappears in different roles, compounds the cyclic nature of the work.

The common thread to the narrative is sex and thwarted relationships. A Union officer is being questioned by an improbably-blond-bombshell of a Confederate interrogator during the American Civil War, until the 'director' cuts and the scene is revealed as a movie set (though what kind of movie, we don't yet know). A telephone call off-set takes us to a candy-striped hotel room. 'Who is this? I'm with someone,' runs the soon to be familiar line. Two naked guys are sharing a bed, so this could be a gay porn movie, until one admits to screwing the waitress who brings in the champagne. The next call takes us to a monochrome kitchen scene for a heavy dose of domestic bisexual drama, then on to the booths in a Samaritan call-centre. As we eavesdrop, there's lots of enigmatic references to paid sex and gaffer-tape, but this is really voyeuristic fly-on-wall soap, the one-sided telephone conversation being a standard fall-back of low-budget filmmaking. The fifth scene takes place on the set of what one character refers to as a 'historical erotica' movie, a skin-flick set at the beginning of the American Civil War. In the present, the director urgently needs to recruit actors for the two leading roles, which will involve minimal costumes save for a pistol and a pair of handcuffs. Which more or less takes us back to where we came in.

Croft uses the confusion of relationships to maximum effect in disorientating any sense of the specific. Every dialogue seems to be a calculated artifice of one sort or another, from the clichéd rhetoric of love to the same rehearsed dialogue reappearing as part of more obscure psycho-sexual games-playing.

Still from Rococo 55 by Stuart Croft, 2001/2
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