His own voice

"All the Ships at Sea"
written and directed by Dan Sallitt

The style, the temperament and the subject matter finally come together in “All the ships at sea” the latest (2002) by an independent American filmmaker Dan Sallitt. It is a pleasure to watch how its rhythmic narrative and elegant compositions support a serious, honest and measured meditation on faith, reason and heart.

The film describes a meeting between two sisters. Evelyn is a catholic theology university teacher. A younger Virginia has just been thrown out of a cult. The two mostly talk, yet it works due to its framing, pacing, delivery, seriousness and the overall restrained approach. Sallitt uses similar sparse fimmaking style in his two earlier features. Their themes deal with male-female circus of sex and relationships. “The Polly Perverse strikes again” (1985) warns against losing one’s true self to a career and normal life (“- You're doing wrong kind of drugs, - I am on reality, man.”) “The Honeymoon” (1998) begs to first fuck, then marry, not the other way around.

The fimmaking skills in probing human interactions pay off, even though the films are hard battles to win considering that their plots center around impotent, brooding fellows who manage to suck into their miserable existences interesting, usually neurotic women. Bad for the gals, good for the script. So so for the audiences. (With all honestly, I can't complain about those guys too much since prof. Lewinsky a certain philosopher who has already appeared twice in my recent fiction attempts ain't a James Bond type either.)

With its third feature Sallitt wisely disposes of a boring guy part (a priest who appears there is just a sidekick) and concentrates on women and their respective faiths. Sallitt allows characters of the two sisters try to understand each other, without being manipulated by the demands of an anecdote. As a result in “All The Ships at Sea” there are real people on the screen, not actors.

Clearly, Dan Sallitt has found his style. Or a theme. Or combined the two. In any rate such congruency is refreshing. Another cool thing about watching Dan Sallit's films is that one can see how over the years he has developed and improved his style and has finally arrived with a strong and convincing handwriting. “All the Ships at Sea” is meticulously crafted. I am particularly impressed by the rhythm and the visual elegance of this film.

The film's web site has a part where the director points out some of the visual references that he as a learned film aficionado sprinkled out throughout the film. I urge those who want to learn to check it out.


  1. I was very happy to read that post, Paweł. Dan's movies deserve all recognicion they can get. I always see a deep connection between him and the late Erc Rohmer's work. I keep my fingers crossed for him making another feature soon.

    Funny, I never thought of ATSAS as the movie in which Sallitt "finally" gets rid of the ""boring male" character! But I guess you're right -- even making the only two males in the film (father / priest) almost mute, he clearly shifts his focus to the female characters only.

  2. Eric Rohmer came to my mind as well. Also Haneke. (via what seems to be a mutual liking of Bresson)