The Maine clam lives roughly nine inches below the wet surface of the coastal mudflats, where a small hole alone reveals its presence. For the clam digger slogging across the wide-open fields of muck left exposed at low tide, each step also sinks about half a foot, the mud swallowing the boot and only grudgingly letting go. Getting to the clams requires bending forward at the waist, plunging a gloved hand into the ooze, feeling for the round, razor-sharp shell, and then pulling upward, the rude capture ending with a wet, sucking sound. The clam digger does this over and over, until the tide creeps back over the mud. It’s awful, backbreaking work, but through the lens of Sharon Lockhart’s camera, it’s also magnificent. Lockhart’s most recent feature film, Double Tide, chronicles a woman digging clams during a morning and evening low tide in the same cove in South Bristol, Maine. The camera remains resolutely still through both halves of the film, letting us witness from a distance the woman’s zigzag across the mud. We see her through the gray, soft fog in the early part of the day as the pine trees emerge and fade in the morning light. Afternoon brings a painterly sunset. Birds squawk, a dog barks and mosquitoes buzz, but the main sound is the repeated gulps of air and mud as the woman pulls the clams from the ground. The meditative portrait honors the labor alongside the beauty, the extraordinary effort and the splendor of the landscape. The brilliance of Lockhart’s film, though, is that the two are not opposed, with nature the transcendent backdrop to meager human toil; instead they are united, the woman’s presence creating the possibility for the world around her to resonate with such power. (Hammer Museum; Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m. hammer.ucla.edu)
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