TERMINAL CITY – 1982 / 9:21 / 16mm to SD
Photographed in super-slow-motion, we are witness to a stolid and menacing architecture, a building which looms impassively into the frame, its windows a blackened row of blinds. We wait opposite its four-cornered enclosure, imagining the lives that have passed through these walls. All of a sudden the picture changes. While the camera never wavers, its subject begins to collapse, the ties of brick and mortar buckling under an unseen force. The walls tumble inwards, falling in a dust shroud that slowly fills the frame. The soundtrack takes its cue from the image, its recording of the event likewise replayed at slow speed, offering a dirge-like accompaniment to this destruction. Terminal City functions as a kind of elegy for architecture, for all those buildings effaced in the name of urban renewal. Its transformation of the fixed and unchanging into the most temporary of respites is also a revelation of mortality and the need for mourning. Its unyielding stare stands watch over a cityscape whose restless re-creations are founded on the invisible ruins of history. The qualifying â€˜terminalâ€™ of the filmâ€™s title evokes a city of death, a necropolis of discarded and forgotten sites. In rendering disposable the architectures of the metropolis, Terminal City suggests that our cityscapes have come to resemble the images that surround them.
— Mike Hoolboom; Inside the Pleasure Dome: Fringe Film in Canada
The mythic overtones are even stronger inTerminal City , a vision of urban redevelopment as spectator-sport destruction but seen as through the unblinking gaze of a Zen roshi. The Devonshire Hotel: a monumental corpse, windows now black holes for banshee moans and wails – Noh ghost haunting its own demise. Slowing image and sound to 200 frames a second, Gallagher transforms transformation. Explosives accelerate, camera retards natural rhythms of entropy, as man-made rock implodes into a static heaven of smoke and dustâ€¦ City becomes cloudscape; cheering and whistling, spirit calls heralding the void.
— Tony Reif
Terminal City records the demolition of the Devonshire Hotel in Vancouver; through extreme show motion (200 frames per second) and symmetrical diagonal framing, Gallagher underscores the passage from order to chaos within the event. The sparseness of this centering and the patience required of the viewer heightens the literally explosive climaxes of the film, and transforms the everyday violence of the events into moments of convulsive beauty.
— Jim Shedden, Michael Zryd, The Independent Eye