Chris Kennedy

The Free Screen, TIFF Cinematheque, Toronto

2012-2016
TIFF Cinematheque’s ongoing free series featuring independent and experimental film and video.
All programmes curated by Chris Kennedy unless otherwise credited.
Programme name changed to Wavelengths for 2017.
All texts reprinted with permission of TIFF.

“Jan Peacock: Using Clouds as Words.“ March 21, 2012

Jan Peacock: Using Clouds for Words

“All of her work has a writerly quality, leading us to become “readers” of ideas and emotions, listeners to both text and subtext. Her reliance on quotation and elegiac insistence on memory give her work its interior life and sense of intimacy.” — Peggy Gale

“Video is where I can work with shapes of time—language events, sound events, image events—building a space that seems recognizable to us because it’s television, because people spend so much time looking at that box.” — Jan Peacock

Jan Peacock is one of Canada’s most important video artists, as her honouring by this year’s Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts vividly attests. Through both her thirty-year practice and her long-time role as a teacher of Intermedia at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Peacock’s work has influenced and guided successive generations of artists in their explorations of the video medium. She is a pioneer of video installation in Canada (many of the works being shown in this programme are single-channel “versions” of installations usually involving multiple screens) and often conceives of her work as open texts, allowing the medium’s memory-like permeability to allow for future revision, addition and reflection.

This programme is a short survey of selections from Peacock’s oeuvre of over twenty video works and installations. Her early video, California Freeze-Out, made while a graduate student at UC San Diego and included in the influential California Video show curated by Kathy Rae Huffman for the1980 Paris Biennial, sets the stage for many of Peacock’s concerns. In it, and in many subsequent videos, we find the emotional immeasurability of distance—looking longingly at the space between here and there—and the importance of touch: the artist’s hands are a common subject and motif in her work, which heightens the sense of tactility in the video image. Her videos also frequently address the importance of memory, especially in relationship to the fragility of life. Wallace & Theresa memorializes her friend Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an artist and writer whose life was cut brutally short, and (Bliss) (Dread) is an important piece that was made during the maelstrom of the AIDS epidemic.

Bystander, Canada, 2009, 1.5 min. video
California Freeze-Out, Canada, 1980, 16.5 min. video
This Walk, These Steps, Canada, 1995, 5 min. video
Wallace & Theresa, Canada, 1985, 8.5 min. video
therethere, Canada, 2009, 6 min. video
Reader by the Window, Canada, 1993, 16 min. video
Current Details, Canada, 2003, 5 min. video
(Bliss) (Dread) The Road Rises to Meet You, Canada, 1987, 6.5 min. video
Soaring with Dogs, Canada, 2008, 6 min. video

Screening preceded by a looped version of touch 1.0 (2012).

Jan Peacock in person.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 7 p.m.

“The Pettifogger.” by Lewis Klahr, April 11, 2012

The Pettifogger
dir. Lewis Klahr, USA, 2011, video, 65 min.

American collage-artist Lewis Klahr has been making films for over thirty years, re-animating found objects into rich reveries of pop culture dream-narratives. His filmmaking is one of paper ephemera, comic-book cutouts and marked playing cards. The textures of his found material become even more alive with Klahr’s recent turn towards HD photography: the coloured half-tone dots of mid-century printing processes and the surface quality of aging paper become vividly foregrounded, a mixture of Lichtenstein and Frankenstein.

Klahr’s longest piece to date is an elliptical narrative of a year in the life of an American gambler and con man (the “petty fugger” of the title), circa 1963. A narcotic mixture of noir-driven intrigue and brooding, contemplative passages driven by strong mood music and found dialogue from radio potboilers, The Pettifogger is “an abstract crime film and, like many other crime films involving larceny, a sensorial exploration of the virulence of unfettered capitalism. An impressionistic collage film, culled from a wide variety of image and sound sources that fully exploits the hieroglyphic essence of cutouts to ponder what appropriation and stealing have in common” (Klahr).

Lewis Klahr in Person.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 7 p.m.

 

“Quixote: Bruce Baillie.” May 30, 2012

“It is one thing to write as a poet, another as a historian: the poet can tell things not as they were but as they should have been.”— Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“Baillie cuts himself adrift in the land—its history, ideology, topography—in that tense spirit of Otherness inhabiting our long skein of wanderer-thinkers.”—Paul Arthur

Co-founder of Canyon Cinema and the San Francisco Cinematheque and one of the godparents of experimental film, Bruce Baillie (b. 1931) has forged a singular path in his visionary explorations of the world, his exquisite treatment of light and fragmented storytelling influencing successive generations of like-minded filmmakers. (Apichatpong Weerasethakul has pointed to Baillie’s Quick Billy as an inspiration for his own filmmaking.) Quixote, shot on a cross-country journey during 1964 and 1965, is the Baillie film most in need of rediscovery. Joining the ranks of Bob Dylan, Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac in chronicling a tumultuous period in American history from the road, Baillie sets out “to show how in the conquest of our environment in the New World, Americans have isolated themselves from nature and from one another.” Spending time amongst day laborers in California, on the Blackfoot reservations in southern Alberta and making it to Selma, Alabama just days after the first violence against civil rights marchers, Baillie crafts intimate portraits of the people he encounters, then superimposes these episodes over each other to create lucid dream narratives that foresee the explosive years to come, when the frustration against political and economic oppression and the Vietnam War start to inspire definitive movements towards change.

This programme pairs Quixote with Baillie’s evocative contemporaneous short All My Life, Joshua Romphf ’s recent Ride This Country (a portrait of a southern Ontario farm which has a similar eye towards a vanishing agrarian life), and Arthur Lipsett’s acerbic 21-87, which looks at the same time period of Quixote from a decidedly less romantic point of view.

All My Life dir. Bruce Baillie | USA 1966 | 3 min. | 16mm
Ride This Country dir. Joshua Romphf | Canada 2011 | 8 min. | 16mm
Quixote dir. Bruce Baillie | USA 1964-1967 | 45 min. | 16mm
21-87 dir. Arthur Lipsett | Canada 1964 | 10 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 66 min.

Joshua Rompf in person.

Wednesday, May 30 , 2012 7:00 pm

 

“Liquid Metal.” June 20, 2012

Liquid Metal

Arriving in theatres on the cusp of the digital transition which would soon sweep through our culture, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (screening July 14) offered the perfect embodiment of that sea change in the “person” of the villainous T-1000, whose “liquid metal” constitution grants it seemingly limitless shape-shifting abilities. That simultaneous fear and pleasure— that the world is no longer solid—permeates the works in this programme.

Takeshi Murata’s Untitled (Silver) uses digital compression to distort Mario Bava’s 1960 film The Mask of Satan, sliding us, as if dream-induced, between recognizable moments and abstract pixellation. Light Work I finds Jennifer Reeves, a stalwart celluloid filmmaker, testing her relationship to high-definition video to luxuriant effect, magnifying hand-processed film into rich burning plasma. Local video artist Tasman Richardson’s Matt:15:9 breaks a video of the pope into the ASCII text language, linking the democratization of digital culture all the way back to the Gutenberg press.

In the lush Après le feu, Jacques Perconte rides a railway into the Corsican countryside after a devastating fire and then manipulates the codec of the HD video, creating a landscape that smears image and time. Noted for her intricate use of found footage, Sylvia Schedelbaur ups the ante with her most recent piece, Sounding Glass, which creates an almost subliminal articulation of memory, each digital cut balanced somewhere between the stroboscopic and the psychological. Richard Kerr’s Collage d’Hollywood barrages us with an overwhelming web of discarded 35mm sci-fi film trailers (including a couple of Schwarzenegger classics), amping up the theatre of the ridiculous that precedes the modern movie palace experience.

Tasman Richardson will conclude the programme with a live performance of his new piece Firing Squad, which edits the dying lights of analogue TV sets into a digital barrage of rapid-fire image and sound, catching the audience some- where between a paparazzi press scrum and a gunfight.

Viewer advisory: Strobe effects in use during this screening.

untitled (Silver) dir. Takeshi Murata | USA 2006 | 11 min. | video
Light work I dir. Jennifer Reeves | USA 2006 | 8 min. | video
Matt:15:9 dir. Tasman Richardson | Canada 2000 | 4 min. | video
Après le feu dir. Jacques Perconte | France 2010 | 7 min. | video
Sounding Glass dir. Sylvia Schedelbaur | Germany 2011 | 10 min. | video
Collage d’Hollywood dir. Richard Kerr w/ Brett Kashmere, Michael Rollo & Tim Horlor | Canada 2003 | 8.5 min. | 35mm
Firing Squad dir. Tasman Richardson | Canada 2011 | 18 min. | live video performance

Tasman Richardson in person.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

“Fractured Movement/Constituent Parts.” July 18, 2012

Fractured Movement / Constituent Parts

The Academy Film Archive recently restored four films by Gary Beydler, bringing deserved wider attention to a distinctive voice from the vibrant Los Angeles art scene of the 1970s. Beydler’s Pasadena Freeway Stills begins with a sterile set-up—a man places a photograph of a car window on a glass sheet—and then turns into a stunning study of the creation of movement in motion pictures, as successively placed photographs physically animate a drive through the Figueroa tunnels just outside of Pasadena. For Venice Pier, Beydler divided the quarter-mile long pier into segments that he would shoot at random intervals during the course of an entire year. The edited film maintains a forward movement down the pier, but weather, atmosphere and light fluctuate in each segment, as Beydler shot these segments chronologically out of sequence.

Montreal engineer-turned-filmmaker Alexandre Larose’s Artifices #1, originally shot on Super 8 and blown up to 16mm, was filmed using a contraption designed to spin the camera while it was shooting, creating circles of light as the camera is driven through the highway tunnels of Montreal. For Ville Marie, the camera was also placed in a homemade apparatus and thrown off the roof of the fifty-storey Place Ville Marie in downtown Montreal. Larose optically prints the resulting footage into a tour de force of processed colour and abstracted movement, expanding the Super 8 image across the entire plane of 35mm film.

In David Kidman’s Stochastics, the artist walks through one military parading ground after another, as a series of still photographs become animated into a march that reveals the similar features of different war memorials around the world. Rose Lowder’s early film Couleurs mécaniques precedes the staccato frame-by-frame style that would become her trademark, instead basking in the pure colour of a children’s carousel, defocusing the image so that the motion of the carousel blends the colours into constellations of light. Alexi Manis’ The Observatory looks at the constellations of the night sky as sketched by her friend Jerry Spevak during evenings spent watching the stars.

Pasadena Freeway Stills dir. Gary Beydler | USA 1974 | 6 min. | 16mm
Artifices #1 dir. Alexandre Larose | Canada 2007 | 4 min. | 16mm
The Observatory dir. Alexi Manis | Canada 2004 | 4.5 min. | 16mm
Couleurs mécaniques dir. Rose Lowder | France 1979 | 16 min. | 16mm
Stochastics dir. David Kidman | France 2010 | 7 min. | 35mm
Ville Marie dir. Alexandre Larose | Canada 2009 | 12.5 min. | 35mm
Venice Pier dir. Gary Beydler | USA 1976 | 16 min. | 16m

Approx. total running time: 66 min.

Alexandre Larose and Alexi Manis in person.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 7:00 pm

 

“Jonathan Schwartz: The Skies Can’t Keep Their Secrets.” curated by Jon Davies, August 15, 2012

Jonathan Schwartz: The Skies Can’t Keep Their Secrets
curated by Jon Davies

“I was wondering if sincerity could override irony and flood out some emotions from our past. . . follow the echo, it might disappear into the louds.” —Jonathan Schwartz

“Schwartz’s work [exhibits] a kind of wry fascination with things and a tinkerer’s yearning to take them apart and put them back together again.” —Michael Sicinski

“Jonathan Schwartz is a young American experimental filmmaker who has crafted a body of short, lyrical 16mm films over the past decade. Working with the legacies of anthropological and observational non-fiction cinema, and in the avant-garde tradition of filmmakers like Warren Sonbert and Mark LaPore, Schwartz makes the camera a catalyst for a transformed dynamic between the figure behind the camera and those in front. Turning his camera on the people and places around him (whether in his New England home or on his travels abroad), Schwartz captures jewel-like fragments of gesture, light and colour that he then meticulously assembles alongside sounds collected as field recordings, creating films of great beauty and feeling that seem to vibrate with a total openness to the surrounding world and its denizens.

This programme includes three films made between 2008 and 2011 that exemplify Schwartz’s exacting vision, bookended by his glorious 33 1/3 Series, which are “albums” presented in two parts—an A side and a B side—of vignettes shot on 100-foot rolls of celluloid: “films like songs or marches or eulogies.” The programme concludes with the Canadian premiere of Schwartz’s new film If the War Continues, inspired by a story by Herman Hesse: “and before I could be noticed again and taken to task, I spoke to the tiny blessed star within me, shut off my heartbeat, made my body disappear into the shadow of a bush, and continued my previous voyage without thinking about returning home ever again.” – Jon Davies

33 1/3 Series: Side A dir. Jonathan Schwartz | USA 2005-10 | 14 min. | 16mm
Nothing Is Over Nothing dir. Jonathan Schwartz | uSA 2008 | 16 min. | 16mm
Happy Birthday dir. Jonathan Schwartz | USA 2010 | 10 min. | 16mm
A Preface to Red dir. Jonathan Schwartz | USA 2011 | 6 min. | 16mm
33 1/3 Series: Side B dir. Jonathan Schwartz | USA 2006-10 | 15 min. | 16mm
If the War Continues dir. Jonathan Schwartz | USA 2012 | 5 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 66 min.

Jonathan Schwartz in person.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 7:00 pm

“Jordan Belson: Films Sacred and Profane.” October 24, 2012

Jordan Belson: Films Sacred and Profane
A program from the Center for Visual Music co-curated by Jordan Belson and Cindy Keefer

Jordan Belson (1926-2011) was one of many of the elder generation of experimental filmmakers who passed on last year, but he left behind a wonderful catalogue of stunning work. Influenced by Buddhism and other mystical philosophies, his films are both meditative and expansive, exploring states of spiritual transcendence that are translated into a dense and abstract visual music which serves “to transport whoever is looking at it out of the boundaries of the self ” (Belson).

Influenced by the abstract films of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren and Hans Richter that he encountered at San Francisco’s Art in Cinema series, Belson turned his attention from painting to film in the late 1940s. In 1957, he performed a series of Vortex Concerts with sound artist Henry Jacobs. These multimedia concerts, held in the Morrison Planetarium, became extremely popular over their two-year run, and were highly influential on the Bay Area’s burgeoning psychedelic scene.

In the 1960s, Belson began making the films that he is now best known for. Re-Entry, inspired by John Glenn’s space flight and Belson’s readings about the Bardo Plane, introduced his signature brand of visual music. With a home studio set-up that allowed him to capture the ethereal movement of light and smoke in real time, Belson created gaseous light sculptures, with mandalas and cascading lights evoking both solar and spiritual activity. Tonight’s programme features a travelling retrospective of many rarely screened films, including Belson’s last film Epilogue, funded by the NASA Art Program and commissioned by the Hirshhorn Museum.

Caravan dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1952 | 4 min. | 16mm
Séance dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1959 | 3 min. | 16mm
Allures dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1961 | 8 min. | 16mm
Re-Entry dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1964 | 6 min. | 16mm on video
Momentum dir. Jordan Belson | USA1968|6min.|16mm
Chakra dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1972 | 6 min. | 16mm
Light dir. Jordan Belson | USA1973|6min.|16mm
Cycles dirs. Jordan Belson & Stephen Beck | USA 1974 | 10 min. | 16mm
Music of the Spheres dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1977 (abridged version 2002) | 7 min. | video
Epilogue dir. Jordan Belson | USA 2005 | 12 min. | video

Approx. total running time: 68 min.

All prints/videos are from the Center for Visual Music collection. Many of the films were preserved with support from The National Film Preservation Foundation.

Co-presented with www.tais.ca

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:00 pm

“It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve: Masao Adachi” by Philippe Grandrieux. November 7, 2012

It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve: Masao Adachi (Il se peut que la beauté ait renforcé notre résolution – Masao Adachi) dir. Philippe Grandrieux | France 2011 | 72 min. | video | 14A

“[According to the poet Schiller] … the work of art introduces the observing individual to a moral emancipation: the individual sees, thanks to the work of art, how beauty is delivered from all constraints and is nurtured solely by freedom.” —Nicole Brenez

The first in a planned series of films about radical filmmakers by film critic Nicole Brenez and filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux, It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve is a portrait of Masao Adachi, who emerged during the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s as a screenwriter for Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu, and directed a series of avant- garde films that grafted radical politics to the sexploitation genre. A 1971 visit to a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) training camp while on the way back from Cannes resulted in Adachi’s most infamous film, the agit-prop documentary Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War, which he co-directed with Wakamatsu. Soon after, Adachi joined a splinter cell of the Japanese Red Army in Lebanon, where he stayed from 1974 until he was deported to Japan in 1997 to serve time for passport violations.

Grandrieux’s portrait follows Adachi through a twilit Tokyo, with gorgeously underlit, nearly narcotic images reinforcing the mystery of Adachi’s steely inner resolve. Adachi’s whispered words serve as a dialogue on the notion of art and revolution—for him never a contradiction—and a reflection on the possibilities of film to create both beauty and change.

Co-presented with www.reelasian.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 7:00 pm

“Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: Potential Spaces.” November 28, 2012

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: Potential Spaces

French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has been querying our relationship to built environments since the early 1990s, studying parks, urban enclaves and modernist architecture to understand and critique their utopian promise, and articulating her discoveries by creating “chambres”— rooms reminiscent of film sets that create juxtapositions between time periods and atmospheres—which draw attention to the malfunctions of purpose-built environments.

This reinterpretation of our environments is also central to her video practice. Plages uses the surging crowds on Rio De Janeiro’s beaches to evoke the constantly shifting urban environment— especially organic when Rio’s city grid meets the natural rhythms of the pounding waves on the seashore. Taipei (Parc Central) takes us to the park where Tsai Ming-liang shot the conclusion of Vive L’amour, a sudden downpour reinforcing the romantic sadness of cinephilia. Noreturn examines Gonzalez-Foerster’s own 2008 Turbine Hall installation, TH.2058, which imagined the gigantic space fifty years in the future as a dystopian nightmare of steel bunk beds under the watchful gaze of Louise Bourgeois’ Spider, an H. R. Giger-like touch. In the video, she unleashes a group of school children on the installation and watch as they move from playfulness to a recognition of the installation’s menace, finally huddling under a Henry Moore sculpture. In De Novo she turns the camera on herself, divulging the complicated thought processes behind the works she made for her five different invitations to present at the Venice Biennale. The video shows her unafraid to question the contexts of her own work in relationship to an ongoing inquiry into the nature of exhibition, exposition and narrative mythologies.

Plages dir. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster | France 2001 | 15 min. | video
Taipei (Parc Central) dir. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster | France 2006 | 10 min. | video
De Novo dir. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster | France 2009 | 20 min. | video
Noreturn dir. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster | France 2009 | 20 min. | video

Approx. total running time: 65 min.

Co-presented with www.vtape.org
Supported by the Consulat Général de France à Toronto.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster in person.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:00 pm

“Gregory J. Markopoulos: Through A Lens Brightly.” December 2, 2012

Gregory J. Markopoulos: Through A Lens Brightly

One of the most important figures in the New American Cinema movement of the 1960s Gregory J. Markopoulos (1928-1992) integrated Greek mythology and film portraiture into densely fragmented and rhythmical works that attempt to articulate cinema’s purest form. When Markopoulos left the United States in 1967 to move permanently to Europe, he withdrew his films from distribution, which has made them extremely difficult to see—a great loss to film culture given their historical importance and lasting influence.

In recent years, the efforts of Markopoulos’ partner Robert Beavers to finish and exhibit Markopoulos’ epic final film, the eighty-hour ENIAIOS, have sparked a renewed interest in Markopoulos’ oeuvre. ENIAIOS is specifically designed to be shown at the Temenos, a special site in Arcadia, Greece, but Beavers has kindly agreed to present a programme of Markopoulos’ earlier films, many of which lay the groundwork for his grand final work.

The films in this program show the evolving development of his film portraiture, displaying an increasing reliance on a fragmented visual style that develops rhythm from quick shots, movement in place and negative space. Swain is an early film inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Fanshawe, with Markopoulos playing the lead character. Ming Green and Sorrows are both portraits of place—the first of Markopoulos’ last apartment in New York City, made shortly after his mother’s death, the second of the house Richard Wagner lived in during his Swiss exile— while Through a Lens Brightly: Mark Turbyfill and Gilbert & George are intimate character sketches of the eponymous American dancer- poet-painter and British artist duo, respectively.

Swain dir. Gregory J. Markopoulos | USA 1950 | 24 min. | 16mm
Ming Green dir. Gregory J. Markopoulos | USA 1966 | 7 min. | 16mm
Through a Lens Brightly: Mark Turbyfill dir. Gregory J. Markopoulos | USA 1967 | 15 min. | 16mm
Sorrows dir. Gregory J. Markopoulos | USA 1969 | 6 min. | 16mm
Gilbert & George dir. Gregory J. Markopoulos | USA 1970 | 12 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 64 min.

Robert Beavers in person.

Co-presented with www.lift.ca

Sunday, December 2, 2012 7:00 pm

“The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends”, curated by Brett Kashmere. February 21, 2013

The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends: Parsing the “Escarpment School”
Curated by Brett Kashmere

Info on Kashmere’s full touring program here.

We showed Part 1: A Map Turned to Landscape.

Brett Kashmere, Phil Hoffman, Mike Hoolboom and Lorne Marin in person.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:30 pm

Still: His Romantic Movement, by Richard Kerr

“Robert Beavers: My Hand Outstretched…” December 3, 2012

Robert Beavers: My Hand Outstretched…

“I think of filmmaking like architecture: the entire process is nourished through many stages of development, and the vision of each part leads to the next. The work does not exclude spontaneity. The filming reaches forward and extends a central impulse. It has a chronology. Observation draws out an interior richness.” —Robert Beavers

Robert Beavers began making films while still a teenager, after leaving his home in Weymouth, Massachusetts for New York City at age sixteen. A few years later, he left for Europe and was joined by Gregory J. Markopoulos, with whom he would share his life until Markopoulos’ death in 1992. Markopoulos was both a mentor and champion for Beavers’ work, but neither artist circulated their films in the last decades of Markopoulos’ life, making them practically invisible.

When Beavers’ films did emerge in the beginning of this century—most notably during the Festival’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002, in a three-screening series that begat the Wavelengths programme the very next year—they were a revelation. Eighteen films were eventually released as a full thematic cycle, collected under the title My Hand Outstretched to the Winged Distance and Sightless Measure. The films, as Beavers says, grew “out of my relation to Gregory Markopoulos, protected by solitude and the spirit that came from our dedication to filmmaking.” As such, seeing them in relationship to Markopoulos’ films shows both a dialogue and unique counterpoint between the two filmmakers.

Three of the films shown tonight derive from Beavers’ eighteen-film cycle, and they are followed by his most recently completed film, The Suppliant. Employing a meticulous editing style, Beavers cycles through evocations of architecture (Greek arcades), old-fashioned customs (bookbinding, ancient refrigeration techniques), landscape (a stream in Lousios, the barren landscape of Hydra), and hands performing an action. The hands in The Stoas are cupped as if holding vases— the initial inspiration for the film. Beavers never shot the vases, so the hands become a visual notion of presence in the face of absence—a beautiful metaphor for the place his work now fills in the continued dialogue around film’s evolving possibilities.

Work Done dir. Robert Beavers | USA 1972/1999 | 22 min. | 35mm
The Stoas dir. Robert Beavers | USA 1991-1997 | 22 min. | 35mm
The Ground dir. Robert Beavers | USA 1993-2001 | 20 min. | 35mm
The Suppliant dir. Robert Beavers | USA 2010 | 5 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 69 min.

Robert Beavers in person.

Co-presented with www.lift.ca  & www.imagesfestival.com

Monday, December 3, 2012 6:30 pm

 

Still: Work Done

“Patience (After Sebald)” by Grant Gee. March 21, 2013

Patience (After Sebald)
dir. Grant Gee | UK 2012 | 82 min. | video

The four novels that W. G. Sebald wrote before his untimely death in 2001 at the age of fifty-seven have had a significant impact on contemporary literature. Reflecting on the weight of history and the melancholy of the post-Holocaust German exile, combining detailed but straightforward prose with the occasional haunting photograph, Sebald’s quartet has inspired numerous contemporary artists and writers who are drawn to the way Sebald parses the nature of the official record and our own personal archive: our memory.

Retracing the “English pilgrimage” through Suffolk County in East Anglia which Sebald narrates in The Rings of Saturn—in which the author used the melancholic English landscape as a sounding board for digressive ruminations on memory, war, and the decline of civilization— Grant Gee’s documentary Patience (After Sebald) creates a parallel to Sebald’s haunting novel rather than an illustration or interpretation of it. Combining passages from The Rings of Saturn with reflections on Sebald’s writing from a rich assortment of commentators (including Iain Sinclair, Rick Moody and Tacita Dean) set against beautiful black-and-white 16mm images of the brooding English countryside and a moving soundtrack from Leyland Kirby’s The Caretaker project, Gee creates a stunning testament to the significance of Sebald’s ideas for our contemporary moment.

Co-presented with www.typebooks.ca

Thursday, March 21, 2013 6:30 pm

“Brave New World: The Films of Barbara Hammer.” April 4-6, 2013

composite by Susan Wides

Brave New World: The Films of Barbara Hammer

Six program retrospective. Barbara Hammer in person.

In recent years, the pioneering experimental filmmaker and lesbian activist Barbara Hammer (b. 1939) has been feted with retrospectives at London’s Tate Modern, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Paris’ Jeu de Paume, amongst others. This is a fitting and overdue tribute to an artist who has explored such a wide range of styles and subjects over her prolific forty-five-year career. From her very first Super 8 psychodramatic self-portraits, to her mid-eighties experiments with the abstract possibilities of the optical printer, to her later documentaries that attempt to trace a queer artistic lineage through the political and artistic turmoil of the early twentieth century, Hammer has displayed a stylistic polyvalence which, combined with her generosity as an artist, teacher and community activist, has influenced generations of students, filmmakers and artists.

Born at the tail end of the Depression to parents heading west to Los Angeles in search of a better life, Hammer is the quintessential twentieth-century American pioneer. Her life and films reflect both a peripatetic sense of place (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and journeys to the Ukraine, South Africa, France, Korea and Japan) and a corresponding sense of inner discovery.

Persistently revealing her own personal history (most recently, and entertainingly, recounted in her autobiography Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life) in her films, with her oeuvre Hammer has created a unique artistic record of, among other things, her coming out as a lesbian during feminism’s second wave, her battles against the politics of exclusion in the 1980s, and her victory over ovarian cancer in the last decade. Displaying Hammer’s willingness to break boundaries in both her life and work, these films move beyond the diaristic to the utopic, toward new ways of being, seeing and thinking—a true brave new world.

Barbara Hammer in person at all screenings!

 


Resisting Paradise
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2003 | 80 min. | 16mm

In Resisting Paradise, a painting residency in Cassis, the land of Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, becomes an occasion for Barbara Hammer to confront a question that is inherent to much of her work— the relationship between art and political resistance—when the war in Kosovo breaks out. While exploring the history of the French Resistance in Cassis during World War II, Hammer reflects on Matisse’s apparent neutrality during the war—especially in light of Walter Benjamin’s failed attempt to escape to Spain through the region as he fled from the Nazis—and uses this history to raise questions about the validity of art in the face of political turmoil.

preceded by

Pools
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1988 | 8 min. | 16mm

This short film, which Hammer made with Barbara Klutinis, takes a luscious swim through the pools of William Randolph Hearst’s famed San Simeon castle in San Simeon, California. The pools which were designed by Julia Morgan, the first woman architect licensed in California.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Toronto artist and filmmaker Elle Flanders.

Thursday, April 4, 6:30pm

 


Tender Fictions
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1995 | 67 min. | 16mm

Tender Fictions is Barbara Hammer’s mid- career autobiography, from her tangential childhood connection to Shirley Temple and Lillian Gish to the successive constructions of her identity as a feminist, lesbian, and filmmaker. Drawing from her personal archive of self-documentation and found footage and charting the links between her life and the political movements of the time, Hammer performs and reperforms her own history, continually doubling back to reveal how autobiography is also, necessarily, a fiction.

preceded by


Still Point

dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1989 | 9 min. | 16mm

A celebration of Hammer’s life-partner, Florrie Burke, reflecting on love in socially and economically turbulent times.

Thursday, April 4, 9:00pm

 


Dyketactics

Opening with the highly influential Dyketactics— which Hammer cheekily calls her “lesbian commercial”—this programme of short films focuses on a period when Hammer, residing in the Bay Area and newly out, began to explore her new identities as both lesbian and filmmaker. Both political and sensual, films like Menses and Superdyke exult in the joy and excitement of the feminist second wave, while in the deeply personal Women I Love and Double Strength Hammer reflects on the great attraction she had for specific women she was sharing the movement with.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Allyson Mitchell, a Toronto-based multimedia and performance artist, professor, and co-founder of the feminist art gallery FAG.

Dyketactics dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1974 | 4 min. | 16mm
Menses dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1974 | 4 min. | 16mm
Superdyke dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1975 | 18 min. | 16mm
Women I Love dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1976. 25 min. 16mm
Sappho dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1978 | 7 min. | 16mm
Multiple Orgasm dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1976 | 6 min. | 16m
Double Strength dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1978 | 16 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 80 min.

Saturday, April 6, 1:00pm

 


Nitrate Kisses
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1992 | 67 min. | 16mm

Her first feature-length film, Nitrate Kisses may well be Barbara Hammer’s masterpiece. Shot on grainy black-and-white Super 8 and blown up to 16mm, Nitrate Kisses focuses on the marginalization of lesbian and gay sexuality in the twentieth century. Archival footage taken from the first gay film in US history, James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber’s Lot in Sodom, frames extended sequences of lovemaking by couples, including two elderly lesbians, a mixed- race gay couple and an S/M lesbian couple. In the unashamed intimacy of its lovemaking sequences, Nitrate Kisses is taboo-busting provocation, politically charged polemic and, above all else, a rapturous visual ode to the sensual pleasures of love and intimacy.

preceded by

Schizy
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1968 | 4 min. | 16mm

Barbara Hammer’s first film, shot on Super 8 and recently blown-up to 16mm.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and author and nationally syndicated sex columnist Sasha.

Saturday, April 6, 7:00pm

 


Resisting Death

“Freedom is riding my horse on a trail exploring the unknown or seeing with the eyes that rebirth from cancer has given me, as the world becomes new again.”
—Barbara Hammer

A Horse Is Not A Metaphor follows Hammer’s recuperation from stage-3 ovarian cancer, documenting her hospital visits and the methods she used to heal and strengthen her body. Hammer’s layering of video images and music (by Meredith Monk) harks back to the more abstract style that she developed in such earlier films as the acclaimed Sanctus, which reanimates moving X-rays originally shot by Dr. James Sibley Watson (the director of Lot in Sodom) to create a chilling meditation on the fragility of the human body. Coursing along to Pauline Oliveros’ propulsive soundtrack, Bent Time traverses the ley lines of America in a glorious attempt to bend time and light, its relentless forward movement forward mirroring Hammer’s own perseverance, as she draws strength from the journey along the way.

Sanctus dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1990 | 19 min. | 16mm
A Horse Is Not A Metaphor dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2008 | 30 min. | video
Bent Time dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1983 | 21 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 70 min.

Sunday, April 7, 5:00pm

 


Generations

This programme highlights Hammer’s influence on a younger generation of queer filmmakers, as well as paying tribute to one of her own primary influences, the legendary Maya Deren. Maya Deren’s Sink, Hammer’s most recent video, explores Deren’s concepts of space, time and form (themes which Hammer has repeatedly explored in her own work) in relationship to the homes in which she lived—particularly the Hollywood bungalow where she shot the groundbreaking Meshes of the Afternoon. In Generations, Hammer collaborates with young queer filmmaker Gina Carducci for a revelatory portrait of Coney Island’s shuttered Astroland. Working separately but in dialogue, Hammer and Carducci each bring their own methods and interpretation to the final film, creating a lovely ode to mentorship and apprenticeship.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Deirdre Logue, a Toronto-based multimedia artist and co-founder of the feminist art gallery FAG.

I Was/I Am dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1972 | 6.5 min | 16mm
Meshes of the Afternoon dir. Maya Deren | USA 1943 | 14 min. | 16mm
Generations dirs. Barbara Hammer & Gina Carducci | USA 2010 | 30 min. | 16mm
Scratch dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 1998 | 2 min. | 16mm on video
Moohead dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 1999 | 1 min. | 16mm on video
Eclipse dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 2005 | 4.5 min. | video
Velvet Crease dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 2012 | 2 min. | video
Maya Deren’s Sink dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2011 | 29 min. | video

Approx. total running time: 87 min.

Sunday, April 7, 7:00pm

“Yang Fudong: An Estranged Paradise”. June 5, 2013

An Estranged Paradise (Mo sheng tian tang) dir. Yang Fudong | China 1997/2002 | 76 min. | 35mm on video

In support of acclaimed visual artist Yang Fudong’s new installation New Women—commissioned by TIFF for the HSBC Gallery as a complement to the film programme A Century of Chinese Cinema— The Free Screen is pleased to present a rare 35mm print of the artist’s first feature film, which, like his new work, reflects Yang’s fascination with the nascent cinema culture of 1930s Shanghai.

Shot in 1997 and premiered at Documenta XI in 2002, An Estranged Paradise displays many of Yang’s signature motifs—crisp black-and-white 35mm cinematography, storylines that blur contemporaneity with traditional stylistics, homages to/revisions of genre cinema akin to the early work of his influences Jean-Luc Godard and Jim Jarmusch—while also reflecting his early studies as a painter, notably in a prologue that muses on the traditional methods and subjectivity of Chinese landscape painting. Set in the city of Hangzhou (where Yang had studied at the China Academy of Fine Art), the film takes as its focal point a restless young man, Zhu Zi, following him as he aimlessly wanders through the city. Through a series of distinct vignettes, Yang depicts Zhu Zi’s inability to find comfort in friends, lovers or environment as a reflection of the existential difficulty of China’s “nameless generation,” cast adrift during the rapid changes at the turn of the millennium.

Thursday, June 6 8:45 pm

“A Cinematic Aleph: The Films of Narcisa Hirsch”, curated by Federico Windhausen. June 13-15, 2013

A Cinematic Aleph: the Films of Narcisa Hirsch
Curated by Federico Windhausen

“Born in Germany in 1928 and resident in Argentina since her early childhood, Narcisa Hirsch is a pivotal figure in Latin American experimental cinema. Moving into filmmaking in the late sixties following her earlier work in painting, performances and happenings, Hirsch focuses on the body and corporeal experience in her work, and combines her musings on spiritual and existential questions with lyrical imagery derived largely from the interior spaces of her domestic life, the rural landscapes of Patagonia and the urban environments of Buenos Aires.

While her artistic biography has intersected with such art- and film-cultural milestones as the happenings at the di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires and the early years of Anthology Film Archives, Hirsch has resolutely sought to follow her own course, mostly avoiding strong institutional affiliations and seeking to engage with artists and thinkers on her own terms. Despite this strong-willed individualism, however, she still views filmmaking as a profoundly social and collaborative practice, having contributed extensively to the formation and development of Argentina’s experimental film and video scene since her early collaborations with an informal, loosely knit collective that included such key filmmakers as Claudio Caldini, Marie Louise Alemann, Juan José Mugni and Horacio Vallereggio.

This special two-night retrospective begins with an onstage conversation between Hirsch and Michael Snow, whose work provided a unique point of connection with Hirsch’s own practice in the 1970s. On the second night, Hirsch introduces and discusses a selection of her work spanning four decades, including a new 35mm transfer of the 16mm-shot Come Out.“—Federico Windhausen

 

The Imagined Film: A Dialogue Between Michael Snow and Narcisa Hirsch

“In the mid-seventies, Narcisa Hirsch heard about Michael Snow’s 1970 film A Casing Shelved, which combines a projection of a 35mm slide showing a bookcase in Snow’s studio with a tape-recorded narration by the artist that discusses various objects within the image. Not only addressing viewers directly, Snow’s narration attempts to direct our eyes toward specific portions of the image, as if spectatorial vision could function in a manner analogous to camera vision. Notwithstanding her inability to see Snow’s film, Hirsch made Taller (Workshop), a 16mm film inspired by the little she knew about A Casing Shelved. Though Hirsch’s film, like its unseen model, is shot in the artist’s studio and dominated by her voice, it departs in thought-provoking ways from Snow’s work. At this screening, Hirsch and Snow will see each other’s films for the first time and have a conversation about this singular case of a belated, cross- hemispheric dialogue between two experimental filmmakers.”—Federico Windhausen

A Casing Shelved dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1970 | 45 min. | 35mm slide and audio tape
Taller (Workshop) dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1975 | 11 min. | 16mm

Narcisa Hirsch, Michael Snow and Federico Windhausen in person.

Thursday, June 13 6:30 pm

Filmic Passages

“On the second night of our retrospective, Narcisa Hirsch introduces and discusses a diverse selection of her short work. Shot and edited by Raymundo Gleyzer, who would later become a major Latin American documentary filmmaker, Marabunta captures a unique happening staged by Hirsch at the Coliseo cinema in October 1967, after a screening of Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Hirsch’s interest in performance informs her lively deployment of machine-based technologies in Come Out, a film that has thus far been left out of the history of experimental work influenced by minimalist music and structural cinema. Testamento y vida interior also includes a performance, one in which Hirsch’s fellow filmmakers carry a coffin through the streets of Buenos Aires—an action all the more striking for having been accomplished at the outset of Argentina’s “Dirty War.” In Ama-Zona and A Dios, sparse meditations on female independence, eroticism, violence, and mortality are threaded through lyrical depictions of various spaces—urban and rural, domestic and public—with an eye attuned to the nuances of light, colour, and shadow. The programme ends with a nod to Borges in El Aleph, a lively summing-up, and an affirmation of a life lived through and with the cinema.”—Federico Windhausen

Marabunta dir. Raymundo Gleyzer | Argentina 1967 | 7 min. | 16mm
Ama-Zona dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1983/2001 | 11 min. | Super 8 re-edited on video
Testamento y vida interior dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1976 | 11 min. | Super 8 on video
A Dios dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1989 | 22 min. | Super 8 on video
Come Out dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1970 | 12 min. | 16mm blown up to 35mm
El Aleph dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 2005 | 1 min. | video

Narcisa Hirsch and Federico Windhausen in person.

Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:15 pm

“Phil Hoffman: Lessons in Process”. August 8, 2013

Phil Hoffman: Lessons in Process

Toronto filmmaker Phil Hoffman has long foregrounded the process of discovery inherent in filmmaking, reflexively imprinting it within the final films themselves. Whether it is the unpredictable chemical revelations of hand processing, the surprise unveilings of events and histories in family biographies, or happenstance occurrences during the filming itself, his films are ripe with lessons about how to harness the immediate experiences that goes into any creative work.

Hoffman’s latest film, Lecciones en Proceso (Lessons in Process), finds him sharing these lessons through collaboration with a group of students from Cuba’s famed Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños, where Hoffman was engaged to teach filmmaking workshops in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Designed as a crossroads for students from developing countries, the school was founded in 1986 by a quartet of politically motivated Latin American writers and filmmakers. One of the original founders, the now eighty-six-year-old Argentinean poet and filmmaker Fernando Birri, still serves as a father figure to the school, and his visit during Hoffman’s tenure reminds his students of their social inheritance—a heritage that comes to the fore as the students react to the Haitian earthquake that occurs soon thereafter.

Lessons in Process is preceded by passing through / torn formations, another meditation on travel and ancestry and one of the most significant films in Hoffman’s oeuvre. Beautifully shot in crisp black and white and muted colour, this rich and multilayered work documents Hoffman’s return to his Czech mother’s homeland, a visit that frames another story about responsibility: that of a wayward uncle whom Hoffman attempts to reunite with an estranged daughter, in an effort to mend the fissures of time and neglect.

passing through / torn formations dir. Phil Hoffman | Canada 1988 | 43 min. | 16mm
Lecciones en Proceso (Lessons in Process) dir. Phil Hoffman | Canada/Cuba 2012 | 31 min. | video

Phil Hoffman in person.

Thursday, August 8 6:30 pm

“All Down the Line: Films by Kevin Jerome Everson”. October 3-4, 2013

All Down the Line: Films by Kevin Jerome Everson

Kevin Jerome Everson in person.

Over the past fifteen years, Kevin Jerome Everson has created a singular body of work devoted to a personal and distinctive look at African American life. Drawing on his training as a visual artist, notably in sculpture and photography, Everson’s films build a formal relationship to his subjects that move beyond documentary into portraits of people’s physical relationship to their work, their geographic community, and the material weight of history. His films are performative gestures— they inhabit experience as much as they reveal the stories behind that experience.

As Everson’s body of work has steadily accumulated—he currently has seven features and nearly a hundred shorts to his credit—a geographic subtext has appeared that maps the Great Migration of the early and mid-twentieth century, when African Americans moved out of the rural South to the cities of the North. The locations of many of Everson’s films (notably Columbus, Mississippi, and Mansfield and Cleveland, Ohio), tied as they often are to communities he has personal relationships with, serve as both a skeletal trace of that historical movement and a testament to the interconnections of African American communities across the United States. This two-part spotlight inquires into this restlessness so evident in Everson’s work—especially so in the case of his new feature film, The Island of St. Matthews, which takes us to the Mississippi community that his parents left behind when they migrated to Ohio in the 1950s.

Company Line forms the centrepiece to this inquiry. This documentary featurette looks at the neighbourhood in Mansfield, Ohio, where Everson was born and raised, an area settled by African Americans from the South after World War II but recently gentrified by city planning. Everson travels the neighbourhood roads with city snowplow drivers, mapping the area through work and testimony. Emergency Needs revisits a tense night in Cleveland history, the Glenville Shootout of July 1968, which took place at a time when the urban North was saturated with racial tension and civil unrest. Rita Larson’s Boy chronicles a westwards migration: Columbus native Nathaniel Taylor’s journey to Los Angeles in search of fame, which he found in the role of Rollo Larson on Sanford and Son. In between, we look at examples of Everson’s single-roll films, his unique one-take gems that reveal a highly materialist attention to movements that are both physical and metaphoric.

The Pritchard dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2010 | 11min. | 16mm | silent
Company Line dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2009 | 30 min. | 16mm/mini-DV/photographs on video
Emergency Needs dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2007 | 7 min. | 16mm on video
Undefeated dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2008 | 3 min. | 16mm on video
Rita Larson’s Boy dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2012 | 11 min. | 16mm on video
Century dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2012 | 7 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 69 min.

Thursday, October 3 8:30 pm

The Island of St. Matthews

In 1973, a catastrophic flood deluged the city of Columbus, Mississippi, gutting many of the homes that were built in the floodplains of the Tombigbee River. A subsequent dam project by the US Army Corps of Engineers enabled the regulation of future floodwaters, but also separated the community of Westport from the rest of Columbus.

For Kevin Jerome Everson, the flood first manifested itself in a lack of family heirlooms, washed away as they were by the floodwaters. Reflecting on this, in The Island of St. Matthews Everson returns to Westport to create a portrait of the community, the remarkable insights he gleans via his personal access to the local residents amplified by the rich beauty of his 16mm cinematography. The film unfolds as a mixture of poetic sequences centred upon the local church; moving testimonials recalling the flood; a tour of the dam locks; and an idiosyncratic sequence following a water-skier as he circles the “island” along the Tombigbee. Through this beautiful and subtly revealing film, Everson once again captures the pull of personal roots by focusing on the resilience of a displaced community ever more committed to calling their land home.

The Island of St. Matthews is preceded by Juneteenth Columbus Mississipi, a single- frame journey through the Columbus fairgrounds during the annual celebration of the abolition of slavery.

Juneteenth Columbus Mississippi dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2013 | 2 min. | 16mm on video | silent
The Island of St. Matthews dir. Kevin Jerome Everson | USA 2013 | 64 min. | 16mm on video

Films courtesy of the artist; Trilobite-Arts-DAC and Picture Palace Pictures.

Friday, October 4 6:30pm

 

“Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981”, curated by Richard Martin. November 7, 2013

Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981
Curated by Richard Martin

Vancouver’s film scene of the late sixties and seventies was a well of exploratory talent. Nurtured by genre-bending organizations like the Inter-Media Arts Society, a new generation of filmmakers explored a range of possibilities of what film could be, from psychedelic head-trips to experimental dramas to feminist critiques.

In his documentary Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema, curator Richard Martin interviews many of the artists working during this era alongside current practitioners like Alex MacKenzie, eliciting numerous fascinating anecdotes. Back then, the filmmakers were a motley crew: the iconoclastic Al Razutis built his own optical printer and projected films on downtown buildings; the serene David Rimmer haggled for support from the local NFB offices even while remixing their footage into his own structural films. Most have continued to work in film, some (Razutis, Rimmer and Chris Gallagher) continuing in experimental practice, while others (Sturla Gunnarsson, Kirk Tougas and Tom Braidwood) have made their mark in the Canadian mainstream. In either case, the films they made in the seventies both foresaw their future talents and documented an important moment of creativity and uncompromising experimentation.

With the support of Moving Images Distribution, Richard Martin created the Backbone project as a way to remind us of that moment and return these films into circulation. While some, like Canadian Pacific 1 and The Central Character, have long been accepted into the canon of Canadian cinema (although they are still rarely seen), others, such as Steel Mushrooms and In Black and White, have been almost completely lost from view. These recent digital restorations bring the films back in all their visual glory, reasserting the visceral impact of a particularly fertile period of Canadian image-making.

Steel Mushrooms dir. Gary Lee-Nova | Canada 1967 | 7.5 min. | 16mm on video
Lumiere’s Train (Arriving at the Station) dir. Al Razutis | Canada 1979 | 9 min. | 16mm on video
A Day Much Like the Others dir. Sturla Gunnarsson | Canada 1977 | 4 min. | 16mm on video
Seeing in the Rain dir. Chris Gallagher | Canada 1981 | 10 min. | 16mm on video
The Central Character dir. Patricia Gruben | Canada 1977 | 15 min. | 16mm on video
Canadian Pacific 1 dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1974 | 11 min. | 16mm on video
Backbone dir. Tom Braidwood | Canada 1972 | 11 min. 16mm on video
Eclipse dir. Peter Lipskis | Canada 1979 | 3.5 min. | 16mm on video
From Quebec (Loin du Québec) dir. Kirk Tougas | Canada 1971 | 15 min. | 16mm on video
In Black and White dir. Michael McGarry | Canada 1979 | 10 min. | 16mm on video

Approx. total running time: 96 min.

Co-presented with
www.movingimages.ca
www.backbonefilm.ca

Backbone: Early Vancouver Experimental Cinema 1967-1981 was supported by the Initiatives program, Canada Council for the Arts, and this presentation was supported by the touring program, British Columbia Council Arts Council.

Alex MacKenzie in person.

Thursday, November 7 6:30 pm

“twohundredfiftysixcolors”. December 5, 2013

twohundredfiftysixcolors
dirs. Eric Fleischauer & Jason Lazarus | USA 2013 | 97 min. | video | silent

“GIF” was nominated as Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary in 2012. Appropriately enough, Chicago artists Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus spent that entire year harvesting a collection of thousands of GIFs to create twohundredfiftysixcolors, a riveting portrait of this newly resurgent file type. First created in 1987 as a highly compressed image format ideal for the slow download speeds of early modems, the Graphics Interface Format quickly gained popularity for its ability to contain multiple image animations in a single small file. For over a decade, the GIF was displaced as faster download speeds allowed for more complicated file types, but recent old-school revivalism has brought the GIF back to the future as the perfect low-tech vessel to disseminate today’s pop-culture memes.

Created from over 3,000 GIFs collected from the internet, Fleischauer and Lazarus’ encyclopaedic film liberates these images from the computer screen and compels us to consider them as part of our cinematic heritage, as a contemporary version of the nineteenth-century thaumatrope, the double-sided cards that people would twirl in their fingers to see animations—Victorian proto-cinema returning to haunt the digital age. Fleischauer and Lazarus create a stunning taxonomy out of their collection of contemporary cultural castaways, taking us through GIFs that are by turns hilarious, enervating, raunchy and sublime, all propelled by an exceptional attention to the edit point. This is found-object filmmaking at its most decadent, a witty structural gesture gilded with animated pizzas and Obama cartoons.

Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus in person.

Co-presented with Gallery TPW.

Thursday, December 5 6:30pm

“Hold Still – Keep Going: Films by Robert Frank”. January 17-20, 2014

Hold Still – Keep Going: Films by Robert Frank

Four programme retrospective.

“Since being a filmmaker I have become more of a person. I am confident that I can synchronize my thoughts to the image, and that the image will talk back…. That eliminated the need to be alone and take pictures. I think of myself, standing in a world that is never standing still[:] I’m still in there fighting, alive because I believe in what I’m trying to do now.” —Robert Frank

The publication of Robert Frank’s photo-essay book The Americans in 1958 was a milestone in twentieth-century photography. The result of a year-long, Leica-accompanied sojourn across the US which Frank embarked upon shortly after emigrating from his native Switzerland, the book offered a raw, unvarnished portrait of an America that many Americans did not want to see. This record of Frank’s road trip (featuring, appropriately, an introduction by Jack Kerouac) formed the seed for his inimitable style: a rough-and-tumble documentary view infused with a deeply personal subjectivity. The handheld aesthetic and fluid immediacy of Frank’s photography (one got the sense that Frank aimed and shot in one breath) lent itself naturally to filmmaking, a practice that Frank embraced fully a year after the release of The Americans.

As with his photography, Frank’s filmmaking had an immediate impact on the art form. Featuring a narration by Kerouac and appearances by Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, Frank’s first film Pull My Daisy (co-directed with painter Alfred Leslie) gave cinematic form to the literature and poetry of the Beat Generation and, along with John Cassavetes’ Shadows of the same year, galvanized the nascent New American Cinema movement, which would soon see filmmakers like Shirley Clarke, Ron Rice, Jonas Mekas and others striving to create a truly independent cinema beyond the commercial province of Hollywood. Frank would return to the countercultural milieu of Pull My Daisy throughout his filmmaking career: Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs were frequent presences in his films, and he would also make documentaries on writer, activist and one-time Merry Prankster Stewart Brand (Liferaft Earth) and, most infamously, the post-Altamont Rolling Stones (the legendary Cocksucker Blues).

Frank’s penchant for subjective documentary soon saw him taking a more inward turn, introducing more autobiographical elements as he sought to “mingle the private aspects of my life with my work, which is public by definition”. The most moving and, eventually, heartbreaking films are those devoted to his two children: his daughter Andrea, who died in a 1974 plane crash at the age of twenty, and his son Pablo, whose psychological struggles took him in and out of institutions throughout his life. Marked by Frank’s rough-hewn style and gruff, no-nonsense presence, Frank’s films with his children, and the later videos he made at his rural retreat in Mabou, Nova Scotia, are both memento mori and vibrant celebrations of life: lacerated and worn like his late-period photographs but offering glimpses of astonishing beauty and power, a poetics of loss and memory as rendered by an outsider “trying to tell something true.”

All films courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

 

Cocksucker Blues
dir. Robert Frank | USA 1972 | 92 min. | 16mm on DigiBeta

Reportedly described by Mick Jagger as “a fucking good film … but if it shows in America we’ll never be allowed in the country again,” Frank’s unflinching record of life on the road with the Rolling Stones is one of the most notorious documentaries ever made, and one of the most impossible to see: a legal settlement with the band—who feared that their entourage’s onscreen antics could lead to public embarrassment and/or criminal prosecution—permits it to be screened only in very controlled circumstances (which makes tonight’s screening a pricelessly rare event). Invited to document the Stones’ US tour in support of their legendary album Exile on Main Street (for which Frank created the cover art), Frank foregoes the glamour on stage in favour of the everyday ennui and stasis in the wings, as the band and their assorted hangers-on (groupies, roadies, journalists) pursue various listless debaucheries to kill the boredom and homesickness of constant travel. Capturing moments lewd, despairing and oddly moving (the band’s incognito pit stop at a Southern bar is especially poignant), with Frank’s inimitably raw style and smoky black-and-white cinematography creating the sense of darkness creeping in, Cocksucker Blues retains its power to fascinate and disturb in equal measure.

Friday, January 17 6:30pm

 

Up, Up, Little Smoke: Pull My Daisy and other Shorts

Based on the third act of an unpublished play by Jack Kerouac, starring Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and featuring a sublime narration by Kerouac himself, Robert Frank’s Pull My Daisy (made in collaboration with painter Alfred Leslie) is not only an invaluable time capsule of the Beat Generation, but the first in a decades-spanning series of films in which Frank explored the changing face of hope—from the new frontiers of the Beat fifties through the growing disillusionment of the post-hippie era and the truly “beat” generation of the counterculture’s heirs in the looming shadow of the Reaganite eighties.

In this programme, the brash countercultural manifesto of Daisy—in which an encounter between a priest and Kerouac’s gang of poets becomes a dialogue between the secular and the spiritual—is followed by two of Frank’s most intensely personal works. In Conversations in Vermont, Frank visits his son Pablo (briefly seen as a young boy in Daisy) and his daughter Andrea at a Vermont boarding school, which elicits not only a candid self-interrogation about Frank’s performance as a parent, but about how the optimistic dreams of the sixties generation contrasts with those of their countercultural forebears. By the beginning of the eighties, that impasse between the generations has been exacerbated by tragedy: Andrea has been killed in a plane crash in Guatemala, while the troubled Pablo is struggling to carry on with the support of his girlfriend Sandy. Pablo and Sandy are the centrepiece of Life Dances On (which Frank described as his therapeutic attempt to “stop the decay” by continuing to work), their attempts to shuffle through in the face of adversity serving as the raw inspiration for Frank’s own attempts to make sense of a collapsing world.

Pull My Daisy dirs. Robert Frank & Alfred Leslie | USA 1959 | 28 min. | 35mm
Conversations in Vermont dir. Robert Frank | USA 1969 | 26 min. | 16mm
Life Dances On dir. Robert Frank | USA 1980 | 30 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 74 min.

Saturday, January 18 4:00pm

 

Home Improvements: Videos from Mabou

Mabou, Nova Scotia, where Robert Frank moved with painter June Leaf in 1971, became both a respite and an inspiration for the artist: removing himself from the hustle of New York City afforded a greater space in Frank’s consciousness for memory, which soon became a primary theme in his work. In his photographic work during this period, Frank assembled blunt juxtapositions of old images and new ones taken of his current surroundings, and he often deliberately scarred the image by writing words directly on the negative and ripping into the photograph’s emulsion. Mirroring these techniques, the three videos in this programme (the latter two masterfully edited by Laura Israel) track the accumulation of memory as Frank and Leaf work in their studio, peer out at the bleak but living landscape, and mourn the death of Frank’s daughter Andrea and the deteriorating health of his son Pablo. Extremely intimate yet expansive in their generosity, these videos are beautiful statements on aging and the ways in which personal experience inhabits and amplifies the artistic process.

Home Improvements dir. Robert Frank | USA/Canada 1985 | 29 min. | video
The Present dir. Robert Frank | USA/Canada 1996 | 24 min. | video
True Story dir. Robert Frank | USA/Canada 2004/2008 | 26 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 79 min.

Sunday, January 19 4:00pm

 

Me and My Brother
dir. Robert Frank | USA 1965-68, re-edited 1997 | 91 min. | 35mm

Bold, challenging and poetic, Frank’s first feature film is both another invaluable chronicle of the Beat Generation and a stunning study of the relationship between documentary and artistic truth. Originally planning an adaptation of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, funding shortfalls steered Frank towards another subject: Julius Orlovsky, the brother of Ginsberg’s lover Peter Orlovsky, who had recently been released into Peter’s care after a stay in a mental hospital and who becomes the catatonic pivot-point of Peter and Allen’s life. Frank follows the poets as they take the silent Julius with them on a reading tour, bringing him onstage as both a provocation and a desperate attempt at therapy. When both the tour and the film are disrupted after Julius wanders away in California, Frank hires actor Joseph Chaiken to take on Julius’ role, fracturing the film ever further into pieces (including a film within a film starring Christopher Walken as Frank) as he both attempts to portray the functioning of a shattered psyche and interrogates the process of capturing truth within the documentary form. When the real Julius returns, his own interpolated reflections on the film serve as a summation of this daringly hybridic experiment, as well as a moving articulation of Frank’s ongoing investigations into the nature of cinematic truth.

Tuesday, January 21 6:30pm

“Tempo Não Para (Time Doesn’t Stop)” . February 18, 2014


Tempo Não Para (Time Doesn’t Stop)

As the injunction Tempo Não Para (tattooed on the body of a street performer in Camilo Restrepo’s As the Sun’s Shadow Continues to Extend When it is Setting) reminds us, time doesn’t stop: it rolls along cyclically, continuously, day through night and season through season. The play of time is both the inspiration and challenge for these varied and beautiful film and video works, each of which in its own way attempts to harness and channel that ceaseless flow through technological apparatuses and post- production effects.

Both Chris Welsby’s classic Seven Days and John Kneller’s exciting new work Axis were created via specially designed camera harnesses: Welsby uses an equatorial stand to guide the camera along the sun’s path over the course of seven days, pointing at ground or sky depending on cloud cover, while Kneller’s adapted Bolex rotates around various sites in the city of Toronto, the results further amplified by exceptional optical printing which breaks down the image into travelling mattes of moving light. In Activated Memory 1, Montrealer Sabrina Ratté uses video processing to create a nearly three-dimensional landscape that oscillates somewhere between the future and the video past. The Italian video collective Flatform also reimagines the landscape in wry and clever ways: Cannot Be Anything Against the Wind animates the landscape of rural Italy, fracturing the farmland into shifting seismic counterpoints, while the stunning Movements of an Impossible Time is a perfect illustration of how cinematic illusion creates our sense of time: a single travelling shot across an Italian villa takes us through the four seasons, aided by rain curtains, wind machines and dry ice.

Movement of Impossible Time (Movimenti di un tempo impossible) dir. Flatform | Italy 2011 | 8 min. | video
As the Sun’s Shadow Continues to Extend When it is Setting (Como crece la sombra cuando el sol declina) dir. Camilo Restrepo | Colombia/France 2013 | 11 min. | 16mm
Seven Days dir. Chris Welsby | UK 1974 | 20 min. | 16mm
Cannot Be Anything Against the Wind dir. Flatform | Italy 2010 | 6 min. | video
Crops dir. Gerco de Ruijter | The Netherlands 2012 | 3.5 min. | video
Axis dir. John Kneller | Canada 2013 | 18 min. | 35mm
Activated Memory 1 dir. Sabrina Ratté | Canada 2012 | 6 min. | video Approx. total running time: 73 min.

John Kneller in person.

Tuesday, February 18 6:30pm

 

“Canadian Pacific: Films by David Rimmer”. March 22 & 23, 2014


Canadian Pacific: Films by David Rimmer
Two Programmes.

The world premiere of the restoration of David Rimmer’s Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival was the first fruit of a major restoration project— undertaken by Mark Toscano at the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles—devoted to one of Canada’s most important experimental filmmakers. Rimmer has been exploring the formal properties of filmmaking since the late sixties, employing a structuralist approach that eschews that mode’s occasional tendency towards intellectual dryness by filtering it through a West Coast sensitivity to landscape, poetry and psychedelia; indeed, many of his early films, comprised of a visceral mix of re-photographed found images and looped sounds, were made in the context of Vancouver’s interdisciplinary happenings.

Even though Rimmer’s films are recognized as key works of Canadian experimental cinema, they have not been screened extensively in Toronto for quite a few years. Recent publications, and Rimmer’s honouring with the 2011 Governor’s General Award, has brought back some well- deserved attention to his work, but it is unquestionably the AFA’s restoration project that is the most important endeavour in resurrecting his invaluable oeuvre. Conceived as a status report on this long-term project, these two programmes of restorations and newly struck prints offers Toronto audiences a chance to discover or reacquaint themselves with the early work of one of Canada’s most influential experimental filmmakers.

Presented in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Seashore

Surfacing

Like many filmmakers raised in or transplanted to the verdant wilds of British Columbia, the stunning beauty of the West Coast landscape has played a central role in Rimmer’s work. The films in this programme capture visions of natural beauty both undisturbed (the shadowed patterns of clouds on mountains in the time- lapse film Landscape being one of the most idyllic) and marked by human expansion, as in Canadian Pacific’s view of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, framed by the North Shore Mountains across the water and the railroad that serves as an essential connection to the rest of Canada in the foreground. The programme culminates in Rimmer’s early classic Migration, a tour de force of expressive personal filmmaking in which Rimmer creates a stunningly kinetic relationship with the world around him.

David Rimmer will be joined onstage by Mike Hoolboom and the Academy Film Archive’s Mark Toscano for a post-screening discussion.

Landscape dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1969 | 8 min. | 16mm
Canadian Pacific 1 dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1974 | 9 min. | 16mm
Seashore dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1971 | 11 min. | 16mm
Surfacing on the Thames dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1970 | 5 min. | 16mm
Narrows Inlet dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1980 | 10 min. | 16mm
Treefall dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1970 | 5 min. | 16mm
Migration dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1969 | 11 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 59 min.

Saturday, March 22 6:30pm

 

Bricolage

Variations

Often turning to found footage as a means to explore the expansive possibilities of film’s material base, Rimmer took to using an optical printer to re-photograph short loops of documentary imagery, devising various strategies to manipulate, break down and otherwise transform the original footage. The results are as expressive as they are analytical: in Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper, Rimmer uses coloured gels to abstract a billowing sheet of plastic into pure psychedelia; in Watching for the Queen he step-prints a shot of a waiting crowd to virtual stillness, so that each frame allows us to pick out individual personalities and tics; and in Real Italian Pizza, he re-photographs street footage he shot from a Manhattan studio window to create an anthropological study of the everyday. The programme concludes with the remarkable, seldom-seen Bricolage, which serves as a virtual compendium of Rimmer’s investigations into the social and aesthetic impulses behind the moving image.

David Rimmer will be joined onstage by Mike Hoolboom and the Academy Film Archive’s Mark Toscano for a post-screening discussion.

Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1970 | 8.5 min. | 16mm
Watching for the Queen dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1973 | 11 min. | 16mm
Real Italian Pizza dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1971 | 13 min. | 16mm
Square Inch Field dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1968 | 13 min. | 16mm
Blue Movie dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1970 | 6 min. | 16mm
Bricolage dir. David Rimmer | Canada 1984 | 11 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 62.5 min.

Sunday, March 23 6:30pm

 

“The Trouble with Being Born: Selections from Media City Film Festival”. June 12, 2014

Cinematographie by Philipp Fleischmann


The Trouble with Being Born: Selections from Media City Film Festival
Curated by Oona Mosna and Jeremy Rigsby.

Founded in 1994 by a quintet of artists that included Deirdre Logue and Chris McNamara, the annual Media City Film Festival has grown under the artistic direction of Oona Mosna and Jeremy Rigsby into a vital destination for those concerned with the current state of the avant-garde. Its location in the working-class border town of Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit) has contributed to its position as a crossroads festival, one particularly interested in providing an internationalist perspective on experimental cinema. Beyond its rigorous programming, each edition has been notable for the number of artists who have travelled to the festival to screen their films (especially impressive during the festival’s first decade, when it took place in the cold winter nights of mid-February), and the passionate and engaged discourse between audiences and artists.

In anticipation of the festival’s twentieth-anniversary edition in the considerably balmier month of July, Mosna and Rigsby bring us a selection of films from their past programs. Designed as both a collection of favourites and a thematic on repetition and seeing anew, this program features work from established artists (Nicky Hamlyn, Henry Hills, Kurt Kren, Guy Sherwin) and those of the generation they have influenced (Philipp Fleischmann, Neil Henderson, Johann Lurf, Rachel Reupke), as well as a film rarely shown in North America (Victor Asliuk’s The Wheel). That few of these names are widely known on the festival circuit speaks to Mosna and Rigsby’s desire to seek out and champion filmmakers who are often overlooked by larger venues, which has made Media City a forum of rare discovery for those willing to make the annual trek down the 401.

Looped on entry:
Risoni dir. Nicky Hamlyn | UK 2004 | indefinite | 16mm bipacked loops

 
Cinematographie dir. Philipp Fleischmann | Austria 2009 | 6 min. |  16mm
Kino Da! dir. Henry Hills | USA 1981 | 2 min. |  16mm
The Wheel dir. Victor Asliuk | Belarus 2003 | 23 min. |  35mm
Da Capo: Variations on a Train with Anna dir. Guy Sherwin | UK 2000 | 10 min. |  16mm
Silver/Gold Portrait of Evan Parker dir. Neil Henderson | UK 2010 | 12 min. | 16mm on video
Kreis Wr. Neustadt (A to A) dir. Johann Lurf | Austria 2011 | 5 min. |  35mm
26/71 Zeichenfilm – Balzac oder das Auge Gottes dir. Kurt Kren | Austria 1971 | 0.5 min. |  35mm
Land of Cockaigne dir. Rachel Reupke | UK 2007 | 14 min. |  video

Approx. total running time: 73 min.

Thursday, June 12 6:30pm

“Fern Silva: You Only Live Twice”. July 15, 2014

Fern Silva: You Only Live Twice

Taking up a longstanding tradition of the avant-garde, the films of Fern Silva constitute a restless travelogue of a filmmaker exploring the world—but this is a far different world than that of Silva’s cinematic forebears, one pervaded by a post-millenial tension that no longer allows one the privilege of looking without consequence. Aware of this danger, Silva casts sidelong glances in his films, tempering his desire to experience the world head-on with an acute (and often humorous) awareness of the compromised situation of being a traveller in a foreign land.

Born in the US but of Portuguese heritage, Silva understands that the romance of Old World cultures and traditions can be glimpsed and alluded to, but never truly returned to (a theme he addresses most explicitly in Servants of Mercy, a portrait of his family’s now elderly gardener framed by the chanted lines of a Fernando Pessoa poem on exile). Those remnants of the past that Silva is able to capture constantly slip away like apparitions of what once was, troubling our sense of the now and never allowing us to find any resolution between us and them, old and new. The films in this programme, made over a prolific five-year period as Silva entered his thirties, give us both exotic beauty (the balloon ride in Passage Upon the Plume is one of the most sublime cinematic moments in recent memory) and absurd invention (the magic carpet that takes us through Concrete Parlay reminds us of the existential trap of seeking out that very same beauty), as Silva’s instinctual juxtapositions take the viewer ever deeper into a provocative mélange of sights and sounds.

 
Tender Feet dir. Fern Silva | USA 2013 | 10 min. | 16mm
Servants of Mercy dir. Fern Silva | USA 2010 | 14 min. | video
Sahara Mosaic dir. Fern Silva | USA 2009 | 10 min. | 16mm
Concrete Parlay dir. Fern Silva | USA 2012 | 18 min. | 16mm
Passage Upon the Plume dir. Fern Silva | USA 2011 | 10 min. | 16mm

Approx. total running time: 62 min.

Fern Silva in person.

Tuesday, July 15 6:30pm

“No New York”. August 14, 2014

No New York

While Jim Jarmusch is the most famous graduate of the New York No Wave scene that flourished during the late seventies and early eighties, this period saw dozens of fiercely talented artists transforming the economically depressed Fun City into their own scuzzy playground, creating films that resonate with gritty power, DIY flavour, and a hip, post-punk backbeat.

Painter and sculptor James Nares (who also shot the films of several other fellow artists, including Jarmusch regular John Lurie’s classic Men in Orbit) made kinetic films that used deserted streets and buildings to utmost advantage. In Ramp, Nares follows a sculpted concrete ball down the off-ramp of an abandoned highway, while in Waiting for the Wind he creates a visual maelstrom in the loft from which he is being evicted, throwing his possessions and furniture around the room. A wild ride of another sort, Vivienne Dick’s Guerillére Talks offers Super 8 portraits of some of the more outrageous members of the No Wave scene, including singer and poet Lydia Lunch and two members of the punk band the Contortions.

In the gorgeously evocative Day’s End (shot by filmmaker Betsy Sussler), Gordon Matta-Clark creates one of his most powerful artworks in the bowels of a warehouse on Pier 52, sectioning out parts of the wall and floor to allow light and water to enter the space. In Pompeii New York Part 1: Pier Caresses, meanwhile, Ivan Galietti documents another of Pier 52’s uses—as a gay cruising spot—showing how the same walls that Matta-Clark removed contain graffiti of sexual adventure, a salacious tapestry in steel and stone recounting a history that would be forever changed with the advent of AIDS.

Ramp dir. James Nares | USA 1976 | 3 min. | Super 8 on 16mm
Guerillére Talks dir. Vivienne Dick | USA/Ireland 1978 | 25 min. | Super 8 on video
Day’s End dir. Gordon Matta-Clark | USA 1975 | 23 min. 16mm
Pompeii New York Part 1: Pier Caresses dir. Ivan Galietti | USA 1982 | 12 min. | 16mm on video
Waiting for the Wind dir. James Nares | USA 1981 | 8 min. | Super 8 on 16mm

Approx. total running time: 71 min.

Thursday, August 14 6:30pm

“Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater.” August 23, 2014

Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater
dir. Gabe Klinger | USA/France 2013 | 70 min. 35mm

Made for André S. Labarthe’s long-running series Cinéastes de notre temps, Gabe Klinger’s Double Play explores the unlikely friendship between two very different filmmakers, James Benning and Richard Linklater, a camaraderie that was born thirty years ago when Benning was the first guest at Linklater’s newly established Austin Film Society. Klinger brings the pair together in Austin for a weekend to reminisce about their relationship, discuss their divergent careers, and indulge in their mutual first love, baseball. Charmingly laid-back and deceptively unassuming, Double Play captures two artists in a relaxed moment, their casual yet wide-ranging conversation offering insights into their respective working processes and deepening one’s appreciation for their films.

Gabe Klinger and James Benning in person.

Saturday, August 23 6:30pm

 

American Dreams (lost and found)
dir. James Benning | USA 1984 | 53 min. | 16mm on 35mm

Recently preserved to 35mm by the Austrian Filmmuseum, American Dreams (lost and found) is one of the key works of James Benning’s extensive filmography, and the first of his films to look at the troubled political landscape of the United States through the eyes of a violent outcast. Here, Benning juxtaposes the diaries of Arthur Bremer—the would-be assassin of Richard Nixon who settled for shooting and partially paralyzing controversial presidential candidate George Wallace—with Benning’s collection of Hank Aaron baseball cards, systematically photographing the front and back of each card while Bremer’s text scrolls underneath, accompanied by a soundtrack of political speeches and pop songs from the year each card was issued. Connecting these men to each other through a single geographic detail— Aaron started and ended his Major League baseball career in Milwaukee, where Bremer (and Benning) was born—Benning intertwines two tales of pursuit (Aaron’s bid to break Babe Ruth’s home-run record and Bremer’s stalking of Nixon) into a riveting portrait of a postwar America in the midst of radical change.

preceded by

Chicago Loop
dir. James Benning | USA 1976 | 9 min. | 16mm on 35mm

A portrait of three Chicago locations (including Wrigley Field), recently preserved to 35mm by the Academy Film Archive.

James Benning in person.

Saturday, August 23 9:00pm

“Far From”. October 14, 2014

Far From

“But because truly being here is so much; because everything here Apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way Keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.” —Rainer Maria Rilke, The Ninth Elegy

Far From, the most recent film from veteran Canadian experimental filmmaker Barbara Sternberg, is a beautifully layered reflection on the weight of place and time on our experience of life. Using footage accumulated from a life with a camera, superimposed with photographs of family and rotoscoped animations, Sternberg draws us through what she calls “the density and noise of existence.”

Sternberg’s film is paired with two younger artists’ reflections on the significance of place. Clint Enns’ The Everden uses the decayed video format of the Fisher-Price PixelVision camera— a 1980s-era toy camera that recorded onto audio cassette tapes—to turn his first impressions of Toronto into a glitched technological phantom. Alexandra Cuesta’s Despedida (Farewell) bids goodbye to a neighbourhood the filmmaker spent a few years in during her time in Los Angeles before relocating back to Ecuador, pairing footage of neighbourhood activity with the poetry of local resident Mapkaulu Roger Nduku.

The programme is bracketed by two films by the influential Austrian filmmaker, Kurt Kren, who used extended shooting periods and visual layers to encapsulate time’s passage. In 32/76 An W + B, dedicated to underground filmmakers Wilhem and Birgit Hein, Kren racks focus between a neighbourhood park and a large-format negative shot from the same vantage, creating a frozen ghost image over the live moment; 37/78 Tree Again features a pastoral scene that Kren shot daily over the course of a summer and fall, using an outdated infra-red film stock.

32/76 An W + B dir. Kurt Kren | Austria 1976 | 7 min. 16mm
Once dir. Barbara Sternberg | Canada 2007 | 5 min. 16mm
Despedida (Farewell) dir. Alexandra Cuesta | USA/Ecuador 2013 | 10 min. 16mm
The Everden dir. Clint Enns | Canada 2013 | 16.5 min. | pxl 2000
Far From dir. Barbara Sternberg | Canada 2014 | 17 min. 16mm
37/78 Tree Again dir. Kurt Kren | Austria 1978 | 3.5 min. 16mm

Clint Enns and Barbara Sternberg in person.

Tuesday, October 14 6:30pm .

“Rhapsodic Rhythms: Len Lye’s All Souls Carnival and Other Postwar Films”. November 11, 2014

All Soul’s Carnival by Len Lye

Rhapsodic Rhythms: Len Lye’s All Souls Carnival and Other Postwar Films
Curated by Paul Brobbel, with presentations by Brobbel and Alla Gadassik.

A pioneer of direct animation techniques, the New Zealand-born Len Lye (1901-1980) was a major influence on generations of artists interested in visual music, from animation great Norman McLaren to early music-video directors. This special programme takes as its centrepiece the first-ever Canadian screening of Lye’s 1957 film All Souls Carnival, an astonishing experiment in visual harmonies and colour rhythms.

All Souls Carnival was developed by Lye in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian composer Henry Brant, and intended to be screened with a live performance of Brant’s contemporary classical score. Although a definitive print of the film has not been preserved, Lye biographer Roger Horrocks carefully assembled this well-researched restoration, which has been set to Brant’s original six-part composition. A later Lye-Brant collaboration, Fountain of Hope—in which musical and visual rhythms are organized into a plea for world peace—will also receive its first Canadian screening tonight.

The programme begins with three excellent 16mm prints of Lye’s “scratch films,” which were created by directly etching animated figures onto celluloid. Free Radicals, Lye’s most recognized film, is a pulsating and vibrant animated dance set to percussive tribal music. Particles in Space continues Lye’s experiments in isolating and animating visual figures in movement, set to a soundtrack that combines tribal percussion with oscillating sounds produced by Lye’s kinetic sculptures. Tal Farlow, Lye’s final, posthumously completed film, is named after the famous jazz guitarist, whose music forms the basis for the film’s geometric figures.

University of Toronto film scholar Alla Gadassik will give a talk on Lye’s contributions to “visual music” filmmaking, focusing especially on the links between visual and sonic rhythms in the films screened in this programme. Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand, will introduce the programme and answer questions about Lye’s work and legacy.

Free Radicals dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1958 | 4.5 min. 16mm
Particles in Space dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1957 | 3.5 min. 16mm
Tal Farlow dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1980 | 2.5 min. 16mm
All Souls Carnival dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1957 | 10 min. | video
Fountain of Hope dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1959 | 1 min. | video

Prints courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation, from material preserved and made available by The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Nga ̄ Taonga Whitia ̄hua Me Nga ̄ Taonga Ko ̄rero.

Tuesday, November 11 6:30pm

“Sylvia Schedelbauer: The Enigma of Memory”. December 5, 2014

Sylvia Schedelbauer: The Enigma of Memory

The videos of Sylvia Schedelbauer reinvent the found-footage genre through their dense layers of imagery that narrate memory as an elusive object. Raised in Japan by a German father and Japanese mother, Schedelbauer is now based in Berlin, but her visual material is harvested from an archive of ephemeral films housed in San Francisco—a nomadic artistic existence that manifests itself in her work through themes of migration, hidden histories and inherited rebelliousness.

Although much of her footage is culled from the basement archive of Craig Baldwin (the nutty professor of the avant-garde set), Schedelbauer’s work evinces none of the irony of traditional found- footage filmmaking. Rather, her videos are complex, abstract emotional narratives that trace the historical traumas of the twentieth century into the shadowplay of today. The personal narrative of Schedelbauer’s first video, Erinnerungen (Memories)—which traces a family history from a Nazi grandfather’s photo diary to Schedelbauer’s youthful revolt in 1990s Tokyo— soon evolved into the oblique use of found material in Schedelbauer’s breakout video Remote Intimacy, which recounted a similar tale using purloined footage of youth camps and postwar Japanese melodramas. In both, personal history is sutured with visual and textual references (Milan Kundera is a particularly important touchstone), the anonymity of discarded images becoming an emotional counterpoint to biographical detail.

The key to Schedelbauer’s reimagining of found footage, however, is her recent use of quick fades and near-stroboscopic effects, which both imprint images upon the mind’s eye and allow them to slip swiftly away (propelled by stunning soundtracks from Thomas Carnacki and Jeff Surak, among others). Sounding Glass and the brand-new work Sea of Vapors are highlights of Schedelbauer’s oeuvre, twin tours de force of rhythmic montage and sound. Sounding Glass propels us through a man’s memories, hitting trigger points of recall that unleash a flood of emotions, while Sea of Vapors employs almost-static imagery, suspended in vibrato, to create an erotic exploration of the birth and rebirth of the lunar cycle.

Warning: These videos contain stroboscopic effects.

Sounding Glass dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2011 | 10 min. | video
False Friends dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2007 | 5 min. | video
Remote Intimacy dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2007-2008 | 14.5 min. | video
way fare dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2009 | 6 min. | video
Erinnerungen (Memories) dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2004 | 19 min. | video
Sea of Vapors dir. Sylvia Schedelbauer | Germany 2014 | 15 min. | video

Sylvia Schedelbauer in person.

Friday, December 5 6:30pm

“The Old Place” by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville. December 14, 2014

The Old Place
Introduction by Antoine de Baecque.

Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville’s The Old Place reflects on the fine arts as both witnesses to history and pathways to the sublime. Like much of Godard’s work in the nineties, the shadow of the Bosnian war haunts this inquiry into the efficacy and the transcendence of art.

The Bridge on the Drina could be seen as a response to this inquiry. Xavier Lukomski’s film consists of a single, widescreen shot of the eponymous structure, a silent sentinel which was once described by Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić as “so intertwined [with the region’s history] that they could not be told as two separate stories.” Lukomski returns to this statement by merging a view of the bridge with a voiceover from the testimony of Poljo Mevsud in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2001, wherein Mevsud describes how during the war he retrieved bodies from the river with the hope of identifying them and burying them honourably. Lukomski’s sublimely minimal intervention illuminates both the horror and the humanity of Mevsud’s recollection.

The Bridge on the Drina (Un pont sur la Drina) dir. Xavier Lukomski | Belgium 2005 | 18 min. 35mm
The Old Place dirs. Jean-Luc Godard & Anne-Marie Miéville | France/USA 2000 | 46 min. | video

Sunday, December 14 3:30pm

Still: The Bridge on the Drina

“WYSIWYG: The Films of Michael Snow.” Complete retrospective. January to December 2015

WYSIWYG: The Films of Michael Snow
Twelve monthly screenings throughout 2015. Michael Snow in person.

“At first glance, Snow’s work looks formalist, but the basis is usually conceptual. (His motto might be William Carlos Williams’ ‘No ideas but in things.’) At the same time, his strongest pieces are perceptual. What you see is what you get.” —J. Hoberman

While Jim Hoberman made the above observation in regards to Michael Snow’s photographic practice (on the occasion of the artist’s recent photography show at the Philadelphia Art Museum), the same sentiment could be applied to Snow’s work in the cinema. Snow’s films could easily be described as “things,” their forms so often deriving from the functions they perform: in Wavelength, a camera zoom across a New York City loft ends on a photograph of the sea; See You Later – Au Revoir comprises a slow-motion shot of a man leaving an office; while the titles of Dripping Water and the cryptogrammic <–> (a.k.a. Back and Forth) are sufficient unto themselves to describe their contents. Description, however, pales before the powerful phenomenological experience of the films: as P. Adams Sitney aptly notes, Snow’s central strength is the “discovery of a simple situation permeated by a rich field of philosophical implications which duration elaborates.”

We are thrilled to present this complete retrospective of the film works of Canadian avant-garde great Michael Snow , screening in monthly installments throughout 2015 with the artist in attendance for most screenings. By the time Snow came to filmmaking he was already an artistic polymath, being both an accomplished musician and visual artist. (In fact, his continuing importance in these other fields overshadows his cinema career for many in those communities.) He made his first film, A to Z, in 1956 (working after hours in future Yellow Submarine director George Dunning’s Toronto-based animation studio), but it was not until he and his wife Joyce Wieland moved to New York City in the early sixties that Snow adopted filmmaking as the third term in his trifecta of creative pursuits. Already at the epicentre of NYC’s exploding visual arts scene and hosts to an exciting music scene—the pair were neighbours to the likes of Carl Andre and Frank Stella, while Cecil Taylor, Roswell Rudd and others regularly played in their Soho loft— Snow and Wieland were introduced to the emergent New American Cinema movement when fellow Toronto expat Bob Cowan arranged a private screening of George and Mike Kuchar’s Regular-8 film A Town Called Tempest.

While Snow claims that the Kuchar aesthetic was more in line with Wieland’s interests rather than his own, he was inspired by the twenty-year-old twins’ ability to just go out and make things. Eagerly embracing the possibilities of non-industrial filmmaking, Snow made half a dozen films during his years in New York. The pinnacle achievement of this period was Wavelength, which Snow finished just in time to screen at the fabled EXPRMNTL festival in Knokke- Le-Zoute, Belgium. The film took the festival’s top prize and quickly became recognized as a canonical work of the international avant-garde, and a key text in what soon became known as structural filmmaking.

From Wavelength’s hypnotic linearity to the visceral intensity of <–> and La Région Centrale to the headiness of Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen, it is striking to witness Snow’s ability to seize upon an idea and draw, tease, or wring out its myriad implications and permutations. Also striking is the sheer sonic and visual pleasure of his films, with Snow’s cross-disciplinary interests in music and the visual arts enriching his work in the cinema; and a persistent undercurrent of humour that can range from dryly witty to pure slapstick. Marrying rigorous thought with exhilarating audiovisual trickery, the films of Michael Snow continually force us to question if what we get is really what we see.—Chris Kennedy

 

Snow in Vienna dir. Laurie Kwasnik | Canada 2012 | 34 min.video
Wavelength dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1967 | 45 min. 16mm

A groundbreaking film that Manny Farber presciently dubbed “a pure, tough forty-five minutes that may become the Birth of a Nation of Underground films” and that Annette Michelson once described as a metaphor for consciousness, Michael Snow’s Wavelength consists of a single, fitful zoom across his New York loft space. Over the course of the film’s duration, furniture movers deliver a shelf, a man breaks into the loft and dies, and a woman discovers the body—all while the zoom continues relentlessly on. The zoom’s compression of time and space serves as a through- line which Snow adorns with a series of techniques—colour filters, a sine-wave glissando, varied film stocks, superimposition, the aforementioned human drama—that distort our perceptions, interrogate the role of narrative in cinema, and execute a radical and transcendental break with the conventions of film language.

A chapter from a long-form documentary project called Fields of Snow that director Laurie Kwasnik has been producing about Snow’s music, Snow in Vienna documents a rare solo piano concert Snow gave at the Wiener Konzerthaus in 2012, a performance that the prolific musician is particularly proud of.

Saturday, January 31 1:00pm

 

New York Eye and Ear Control dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1964 | 34 min. | 14A 16mm
Reverberlin dir. Michael Snow | Canada 2006 | 55 min. | 14A video

Snow’s first long film, New York Eye and Ear Control is the summa of The Walking Woman, a series that Snow had worked on since 1961. Cutting a piece of cardboard into the shape of a female silhouette, Snow turned it into a type of stencil that he repeated in paintings and sculptures, using it to explore seriality, positive and negative space, and the ways in which a shape can change its surroundings. Deciding to document the effect that cutouts of The Walking Woman had on landscape, Snow positioned his outlines and filmed the results in black and white, creating a vivid collision of two-dimensional form and three-dimensional space. Snow then asked a sextet of the free jazz musicians who occasionally played in his New York loft—Albert Ayler, Garry Peacock, Sunny Murray, Don Cherry, John Tchicai and Roswell Rudd—to record a soundtrack for the film, and the resulting recording serves as a striking counterpoint to the formal order of the images, yet another dichotomy in a film full of dualities and comparisons. (The soundtrack had a second life of its own: released separately on cult label ESP-Disk, it became a free jazz touchstone to rank alongside Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and John Coltrane’s Ascension.)

After his return to Toronto from New York in the mid-1970s, Snow’s ongoing interest in free music led him to co-found the improvised music collective CCMC, a project which has continued for the last forty years (a long stretch of which included weekly concerts at the many incarnations of the Music Gallery). In Reverberlin, Snow takes the audio of a 2002 performance by CCMC (featuring Snow on piano, John Oswald on saxophone and Paul Dutton on vocals) and marries it with a visual collage of performance footage by manipulating the imagery through various digital techniques to emulate and counterpoint the improvisational spirit of the performance.

Saturday, February 21 1:00pm

 

Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1976 | 15 min. | G 16mm
<–> (Back and Forth) dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1969 | 50 min. | G 16mm

“If Wavelength is metaphysics, Ear and Eye Control is philosophy and <–> will be physics.”—Michael Snow

Building on motifs that Snow had developed in both Wavelength and Standard Time (the latter of which will screen in the Fall programme)ßà is an exploration of interior space and the particulars of camera movement. Shooting in a university classroom in New Jersey, Snow rigged his tripod so that the camera could only pan within a certain range. The camera proceeds to pan from left to right, starting at a medium pace and then slowing down before speeding up; at its apex, the movement changes direction to tilt up and down at a similar pace, before slowing down to a final stop. Like Wavelength, the pan ignores the range of human activity in the room—a student reading, two students fighting, a janitor cleaning, a vernissage that includes Snow’s fellow artists Allan Kaprow and Max Neuhaus—instead utilizing speed to convert space into sheer motion.

“You aren’t within it. It isn’t within you. You’re beside it,” said Snow of <–>; by contrast, Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) flips the axis and literally pushes the viewer in. Set on a dolly, the camera slowly tracks across a fully set table until it reaches the far wall, the plates, utensils, food and drink all pushed along with it, creating a messily abstract sculpture. Both wryly humorous and subtly unsettling, Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) illustrates the potential violence innate to the film camera, an unstoppable force that captures and discards whatever is before it.

Thursday, March 12 6:30pm

 

La Région Centrale dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1971 | 180 min. 16mm

La Région Centrale looks at landscape from a viewpoint it hasn’t been looked at before, so that it’s completely primordial— like seeing the world for the first time. It’s a whole movie caught up in a kind of movement that envelops the whole movie. In a movie, a scene is usually just a fraction of the event; a movement is just a fraction of it. In this movie, movement takes over the whole screen, the whole movie. It’s seeing things inside the cyclical movement of feeling or existence: the back-and-forth movement, the slow zoom movement. It’s being caught up in a whole force of vision.”—Manny Farber

While Wavelength is justly considered Snow’s masterpiece, La Région Centrale is his tour de force. Constructing an elaborate apparatus that enabled the camera to pan, tilt and rotate in every single direction, Snow and his collaborators brought the machine to a spot 100 kilometres north of Sept-Îles, Quebec. Over five days, Snow remotely directed the camera to shoot the imposingly barren landscape of the Canadian Shield in a kaleidoscopic variety of ways. With nothing else human or man-made visible apart from the shadow of the camera’s pedestal, La Région Centrale is a meditation on the purity of vision, landscape, and movement.

Thursday, April 23 6:30pm

 

Dripping Water dirs. Michael Snow & Joyce Wieland | Canada 1969 | 10 min. | 16mm
One Second in Montreal dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1969 | 26 min. | 16mm
See You Later – Au Revoir dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1990 | 17.5 min. 16mm

One of Snow’s central interests in his filmmaking is the passage of time, and these three films are some of his purest inquiries into this subject. Dripping Water, made with his then wife Joyce Wieland and using the sink in their New York loft, is comprised of a single shot of a faucet dripping on a small pile of dishes. The film’s soundtrack preceded the actual filming, and as a result the sink is not in sync, creating an anticipation between viewing and listening and amplifying the sense of waiting and watching. One Second in Montreal, made in the same year as Dripping Water, employs a similar minimalist approach. Repurposing thirty badly-printed off-set photographs that were given to him for a public sculpture competition, Snow presents each photo onscreen for a different period of time: the first fifteen shots get gradually slower, while the second fifteen rapidly speed up. These temporal variations, interacting with the nondescript nature of the photographic images, create a push/pull between duration and observation.

See You Later – Au Revoir is a single shot using a high-speed camera to elongate a simple action to a quarter of an hour. Snow performs the role of a businessman who gets up from his desk and walks past his secretary and out of the office. The simple ten- second action becomes a waking reverie as every detail becomes hyperreal, capable of being minutely examined as the unnaturally prolonged action unfolds.

Sunday, May 17 1:00pm

 

After a flurry of activity in his first decade as a filmmaker (eleven films in almost as many years), Michael Snow turned his attention back to his visual art and music for much of the next two decades. Following his last films of the 1970s, the epic Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen (which screens in the Fall programme) and Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) (which screened in the Spring), Snow would make only three films in the 1980s—the controversial Presents, the humorous rejoinder So Is This, and the underappreciated Seated Figures—but each one posed a provocative, enduring challenge to what we expect films to be and do. —Chris Kennedy

 

Side Seat Paintings Slides Sound Film dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1970 | 20 min. | G 16mm
A Casing Shelved dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1970 | 45 min. | G | 35mm slide with audio accompaniment

In 1970, Snow made two films that played off the standard promotional tool of the visual artist: the 35mm slide. While preparing a large retrospective of his work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Snow became fascinated by the way in which slides and photos of his paintings became material in and of themselves. Further developing the idea of re-mediation that was central to his practice at the time, in Side Seat Paintings Slides Sound Film Snow stages an artist lecture, accompanied by a slide show featuring Snow’s paintings from 1955 to 1965, that he films from the worst seat in the house: the corner of the room. While the drastically acute angle transforms the slide into a trapezoid, Snow further distorts the experience by gradually slowing down and speeding up both the film and the soundtrack, changing the exposure of the image and the pitch of the sound. This audiovisual warping transforms the obscurely glimpsed projections of Snow’s paintings into new visual objects, and creates a completely different relationship between the viewer and the artist’s previous work.

A similar principle is at work in A Casing Shelved, which Snow has jokingly called his first 35mm film. (And so it is, although it consists of only a single 35mm slide projected from a slide carrousel.) It is also the first of Snow’s direct- address films, preceding So Is This by a dozen years and, perhaps, inspiring the use of narration in Hollis Frampton’s (nostalgia) (which was also voiced by Snow), made the year after. Snow’s tape-recorded narration guides us around a large shelving unit in his studio, filled with supplies and the loose ends of in- progress projects, describing the history of the objects that we see; as Federico Windhausen observes, “Snow’s narration attempts to direct our eyes toward specific portions of the image, as if spectatorial vision could function in a manner analogous to camera vision.”

Tuesday, June 16 6:30pm

 

Prelude dir. Michael Snow | Canada 2000 | 3.5 min. | 35mm
Presents dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1981 | 90 min. | 16mm

Presents, like many of its predecessors in Snow’s filmography, is essentially an investigation of camera movement, but from a more humorous and lyrical perspective. The first section is an extended sight gag: shot from a fixed camera, the scene focuses on a one- bedroom apartment where a woman is entertaining a visitor. As the pair move around the space, their wobbly movements and seemingly inexplicable attempts to maintain balance gradually reveal that the set itself is moving, being pulled back and forth by an off-screen truck. When the camera finally does move, it dollies onto the set and begins to smash into everything in front of it, in a hilarious extension of the visual violence previously explored in Breakfast (Table Top Dolly).

As the set falls away, the film suddenly transforms into an extended compendium of moving shots, all of them filmed with a handheld Bolex camera by Snow over the course of his international travels. For Snow to abandon the support of a tripod was a revelation, after a decade where his work had come to define the heady structuralist school of experimental film, with Brakhage’s tactile poesis at the opposite pole. But just as the eighties saw Brakhage experimenting with uncharacteristic techniques (e.g., occasionally adding soundtracks to his films), the diary of lush, gestural imagery in the second half of Presents undercuts the rigour and order we have come to expect of a “typical” Snow film; as Phillip Monk notes, “Snow pushes us into acceptance of present moments of vision, but the single drumbeat that coincides with each edit in this elegiac section announces each moment of life’s disappearance.”

Presents is preceded by Prelude, which was commissioned for the Toronto International Film Festival’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Six people are in a rush to get to a film screening, but Snow’s editing ensures that “everything in this film is either early or on time or late.”

Saturday, July 11 1:00pm

 

So Is This dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1982 | 43 min. 16mm
SSHTOORRTY dir. Michael Snow | Canada 2005 | 20 min. 35mm

So Is This came as a surprise, as well as a response to the criticism Snow had received. With its formal simplicity and its humour—many saw it, not incorrectly, as an avant-garde comedy film—the film seems, at a deceiving first glance, to be slight, even a smart prank. But on reflection, which the film covertly solicits, So Is This is more than funny—it is a weave of sophisticated theoretical sarcasm.”—Bart Testa

Wavelength<–> (Back and Forth), and La Région Centrale were Snow’s most critically acclaimed films, both because of their surprising new form and—paradoxically, given their almost purely formal concerns—their ability to be discussed in the political frameworks of the period. Certain prominent critics, influenced by French structuralist theory and British Marxism, embraced these films for what they saw as their materialist purity and critically- minded anti-illusionism. When Snow placed himself outside of that orthodoxy by returning to representation—most explicitly through the female nude that opens Presents—the backlash was violent. Coupled with this was a parallel attack from the opposite end of the political spectrum, in the form of the Ontario Censor Board’s attempts to ban sections of Rameau’s Nephew during a Snow retrospective at the Funnel Experimental Film Theatre. Snow responded to his critics of both ideological persuasions with So Is This. Consisting only of written text, displayed onscreen one word at a time, So Is This is described by Snow as a “communal reading” event. The film narrates its own existence, often taking us off on a tangent, circling back on itself, teasing the audience (and the Censor Board), or questioning its own being. It is perhaps Snow’s funniest film, a shaggy-dog story that gathers strength in the reading.

So Is This is followed by SSHTOORRTY, a more recent play on language (Farsi, in this case) and image—“a ‘painting’ about a painting in which Before and After become a Transparent Now,” according to Snow. The film is a short story superimposed upon itself and repeated multiple times, a lover’s spat and a ripped painting creating an endless loop of domestic hell.

Tuesday, August 11 6:30pm

 

Standard Time dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1967 | 8.5 min. | 16mm
Seated Figures dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1988 | 42 min. | 16mm
Puccini Conservato dir. Michael Snow | Canada 2008 | 10 min. | video

Although Seated Figures is characteristically confined by a specific placement of the camera—in this case, fixed to the rear of a pickup truck and aimed at the ground— the result is one of Snow’s most visually compelling films. As Snow drives the truck over all kinds of terrain—he has offhandedly described the film as a “history of roads”—we see a variety of textures flowing in front of the camera as this road movie unfolds: asphalt, gravel, dirt roads, sand, grass, flowers and shallow creeks. The imagery moves between abstraction and representation as different travelling speeds affect the legibility of the visuals, and as manmade surfaces give way to the beautifully variegated patterning of nature.

Seated Figures is bookended by two pieces made forty years apart. Described as a dry run for ßà , Standard Time is a back-and-forth pan across Snow’s apartment, a visual analogue for the radio-dial channel-surfing on the soundtrack. Commissioned to honour Puccini’s 150th birthday, the lighthearted Puccini Conservato—which observes Snow’s stereo while a track from La Bohème plays—takes a subtle, good- natured jab at recorded music. (When opera is canned, where do you look?)

Friday, September 25 6:30pm

 

Our year-long retrospective ends with three longer films that demonstrate one of Snow’s central working methods: isolating a point of focus and running it through every conceivable permutation. Whether exploring the possibilities of film sound, chemical processing, or digital manipulation, these works confront us with a gamut of ideas that illuminate, frustrate and tease.—Chris Kennedy

 

Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen
dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1974 | 270 min. | 16mm

At turns daunting, clever, perplexing and hilarious, Rameau’s Nephew is a true epic, in its length (four-and-a-half hours), its obsessive creation (Snow speaks of hundreds of notes and jottings that went towards the film’s development), and its ultimate execution (production went on for three years). In a series of twenty-five vignettes, Snow runs his cast—which includes such avant-garde luminaries as Nam June Paik, Joyce Wieland, Chantal Akerman, Jonas Mekas, Annette Michelson, Amy Taubin and P. Adams Sitney— through a series of explorations of sound and language, connecting the syntax of frame and sequence to that of syllable and sentence. With each episode focusing on a particular element of sound (a virtuosic drum solo on a kitchen sink, performers speaking backwards, offscreen voices describing action, an unidentified voice bouncing around a room), Rameau’s Nephew steadily accumulates into an encyclopedic satire worthy of its namesake, its sonic predilections both predicting and lampooning avant-garde cinema’s impending shift from structuralism’s critique of filmic illusionism to the theoretical discourse of the “New Talkie.”

Wednesday, September 30 6:30pm

 

Short Shave dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1965 | 4 min. | 16mm
To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1991 | 53 min. 16mm

To Lavoisier originated in part from Snow’s attempt to deal with a stockpile of old film rolls that had accumulated over a quarter-century of his filmmaking. Shooting on a wide range of film stocks, Snow filmed a series of sequences of everyday life (breakfast, a bather, a friend reading, two people playing table tennis), often framed from above and accentuated by a slow zoom-in. He then passed the footage on to visual alchemist Carl Brown—who had developed a methodology of hand-processing outside of laboratory specifications and had previously worked with Snow on his own film Condensation of Sensation—who used a variety of techniques to “trouble” the images. The result transforms the quotidian into a dizzying downward spiral, the straightforward realism of the original images giving way to deranged photochemical abstraction via reticulation, bubbles, colour shifts and destroyed emulsion. The film is bookended by images of fire in a nod to its namesake, the eighteenth-century French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who had used fire to articulate the law of transformation of energy wherein matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed.

To Lavoisier is preceded by Short Shave, an early short that predates Martin Scorsese’s The Big Shave by two years and is accurately described by Snow as “my worst film.”

Saturday, November 21 1:00pm

 

A to Z dir. Michael Snow | Canada 1956 | 7 min. | 16mm
*Corpus Callosum dir. Michael Snow | Canada 2002 | 92 min. video

*Corpus Callosum is resolutely ‘artificial’; it not only wants to convince, but also to be a perceived pictorial and musical phenomenon.” —Michael Snow

While Snow had utilized video in earlier films and installations, *Corpus Callosum was his first concerted attempt to explore the possibilities of digital technology. Set primarily in an office building overlooking downtown Toronto, *Corpus Callosum is comprised of a series of tracking shots across the office floor, where workers type away and two characters, a woman in a pink blouse and a man in red pants (who are not always played by the same actors), consistently take centre stage. This simple scenario soon becomes, in Snow’s words, “a tableaux of transformation, a tragi-comedy of the cinematic variables,” as Snow uses the Canadian-made software Houdini (which had previously been employed for such Hollywood features as Apollo 13 and Titanic) to playfully manipulate the images, stretching, inflating, electrocuting, and otherwise mutating the people onscreen in a gleeful dance of digital metamorphosis. In our current age of digital hyperrealism, *Corpus Callosum is a reminder of the delights of the patently artificial.

*Corpus Callosum is preceded by Snow’s first surviving film A to Z, an animation that Snow made off-hours during his employment at future Yellow Submarine director George Dunning’s animation studio.

Sunday, December 13 1:00pm

 

Snow’s Scene: Michael Snow in Context

Leading Michael Snow scholars Federico Windhausen and Malcolm Turvey discussed the artist’s lasting impact on the fields of film, sound, expanded cinema, and the visuals arts. This Higher Learning event was held on October 16, 2015 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

“Anouk De Clercq: Architectonics”. February 1, 2015


Anouk De Clercq: Architectonics

The Belgian artist Anouk De Clercq embraces the power of computer design and animation to create potential other worlds—whether imaginary landscapes or utopian architectures—that look to the future whilst paying homage to such architectural visionaries of past and present as Etienne-Louis Boullée (whose eighteenth-century monument to Newton is reimagined in Oh) and Robbrecht & Daem, whose recent Bruges concert hall inspired the shadowplay of De Clercq’s Building.

As computer-generated forms, De Clercq’s digital worlds are what writer Anna Manubens refers to as “spaces without memory”: images of futurity with no direct index to history. In this, they bring utopia back to its etymological root—literally, “no place”—and open up imaginative vistas unfettered by natural materials. However, De Clercq’s commitment to architectural and musical structure gives her explorations the rational grounding of the best science fiction: these are speculative yet fully immersive environments, amplified by meticulous soundtracks of musicians like Scanner and frequent collaborator Anton Aeki.

Tonight’s programme concludes with the stunning Thing, which—unlike De Clercq’s previous work, all of which was designed entirely in the computer—was made by scanning urban environments and transforming them into pointillist three-dimensional profiles of buildings and streetscapes, holding space together through the barest suggestion of form. The high-definition image is able to contain subtle clouds of tiny dots that transform the real into an astonishing realm between nothing and thing, absence and the presence of total possibility.

Swan Song dirs. Anouk De Clercq, Jerry Galle & Anton Aeki | Belgium 2013 | 3 min. video
Oh dir. Anouk De Clercq | Belgium 2010 | 8 min. video
Building dir. Anouk De Clercq | Belgium 2003 | 12 min. video
Portal dir. Anouk De Clercq | Belgium 2002 | 14 min. video
Oops wrong planet dir. Anouk De Clercq | Belgium 2009 | 8 min. video
Thing dir. Anouk De Clercq | Belgium 2013 | 18 min. video

Approx. total running time: 63 min.

Anouk De Clercq in person.

Sunday, February 1   6:30pm

“Brûle le Mer.” February 12, 2015

Brûle la mer (Burn the Sea)
dirs. Nathalie Nambot & Maki Berchache | France 2014 | 75 min. 35mm

“The film is a poetic quest which combines materiality (in the strictest sense of that which is material life) and abstraction: the experience of rupture, of reversal. The images should render perceptible the connection between a country left behind and the country of dreams, and then, the reversal which slowly takes hold, of how the country of dreams becomes the country left behind.”—Nathalie Nambot

Leaving Tunisia soon after the fall of the Ben Ali regime in the 2011 Jasmine Revolution, Maki Berchache arrived in Paris and stumbled upon L’abominable, a cooperative artist-run analogue film lab in the suburbs of Paris devoted to discovering alternative possibilities in cinema and, through them, divining ways to actually live differently. A chance meeting with filmmaker and activist Nathalie Nambot led to a fruitful collaboration that produced the stunning Brûle la mer, which uses Berchache’s own experience as a starting point for a collective narrative about the harragas—North African migrants attempting to find refuge in Europe in the wake of the Arab Spring—and a poetic rumination on the idea of freedom itself.

Following the harragas on the journey across the Mediterranean, through Italy and into France—the attempts to find work, to connect with Europeans who were friendly as tourists but now hostile as neighbours, to build the foundations for a new life—Nambot and Berchache build upon these documentary facts to interrogate the quest for a new, “better” life in the north; Nambot speaks of the film as an act of hospitality, questioning both the process of leaving and the politics of welcome, the act of both becoming and receiving the outsider. Moving seamlessly from critique to reflection, aided immeasurably by its lush 16mm and Super 8 imagery—shot and processed by the filmmakers and Nicolas Rey, whose artisanal visual aesthetic (exemplified in his own recent film differently, Molussia) runs counter to the evidentiary insistence so common in contemporary documentary videography— Brûle la mer evokes a landscape of memories and dreams running parallel to the physical landscape its subjects traverse, weaving them together as it amplifies personal experience into a universal one.

Nathalie Nambot & Maki Berchache in person.

Thursday, February 12 6:30pm

“Jean-Paul Kelly: A Minimal Difference.” April 5, 2015

Jean-Paul Kelly: A Minimal Difference

In the last two years, Toronto visual artist Jean-Paul Kelly has created a suite of videos that have honed his long-standing investigations of documentary imagery and its claims to truth. Using abstraction, animation and re-enactments, Kelly isolates the formal core of photojournalism and verité documentary to analyze the mediums’ attractions and seductions—a practice that resonates with both visual arts discourse on the traumatic image and recent cinematic forays back into the roots of documentary form. This interdisciplinary nimbleness has drawn Kelly accolades from both the gallery and the cinema worlds, most recently the prestigious Kazuko Trust Award for “artistic excellence in the moving image” at the New York Film Festival last fall. This programme—which includes a brand new piece fresh from the artist’s residency at the Delfina Foundation in London—speaks to the densely self-interrogating constellation of ideas that constitute Kelly’s work, and suggests new ways of thinking through the logic of the documentary image.

The centrepiece of Kelly’s recent work is Service of the goods, a collection of restaged scenes from various Frederick Wiseman films, including Titicut Follies, High School and Law and Order. While faithful to Wiseman’s original framing and editing, these re-enactments replace the films’ subjects with bed-sheeted ghosts, reduce the soundtracks to room tone and replace dialogue with subtitles. With the films’ documentary bona fides summarily stripped away, Wiseman’s technique paradoxically comes into sharper focus, revealing an intensely structured belief in knowledge beneath the surface of his cinematic naturalism.

Elsewhere, Kelly’s interventions draw on his interest in the expressionism of the animated form. A Minimal Difference and Figure-Ground overlay Kelly’s unique multi-plane line renderings of traumatic scenes with coloured shapes that reference the abstractions of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren and Mary Ellen Bute, creating collisions of pure form and disturbing content. (Bute’s Synchromy No. 4: Escape opens the programme to help illuminate Kelly’s kinship with these early visual musicians.) In The Innocents, abstract circles eat into Kelly’s collection of found material like glory holes, both parasitic digestions and portals of desire that amplify the seductive power of the photographic image.

Synchromy No. 4: Escape dir. Mary Ellen Bute | USA 1937 | 4.5 min. 16mm*
A Minimal Difference dir. Jean-Paul Kelly | Canada 2012 | 5 min. video
Movement in Squares dir. Jean-Paul Kelly | Canada 2013 | 13 min. video
Service of the goods dir. Jean-Paul Kelly | Canada 2013 | 29 min. video
Figure-Ground dir. Jean-Paul Kelly | Canada 2013 | 5 min. video
The Innocents dir. Jean-Paul Kelly | Canada 2014 | 13 min. video

*Print courtesy the Cecille Starr Collection at the Center for Visual Music.

Approx. total running time: 79 min.

Jean-Paul Kelly in person.

Sunday, April 5 6:00pm

“Water and Power.” by Pat O’Neill. June 7, 2015.


Water and Power

“[Water and Power] reveals a modern city as layer over layer of experience, and makes no pretense of reducing Los Angeles to anything like a single, coherent understanding… L.A. is not merely an elaborate reality; it is a nearly overwhelming surreality.”—Scott McDonald, Wide Angle

A latter-day city symphony that was nearly a decade in the making, Pat O’Neill’s Water and Power is one of the most significant experimental films of the 1980s, winner of a Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 1990 and selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2008. Like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, O’Neill’s film focuses on the relationship of water, in all its forms, to the duplicitous undercurrents of Los Angeles. Superimposing text and surrealist vignettes over images of L.A. streets and vistas of the Owens Valley—a primary water source for the city’s downtown core that is being progressively sucked dry—O’Neill renders L.A. as a true frontier town, perched precariously on the edge of the desert that could one day reclaim it. The size and resolution of the 35mm film image provides a massive canvas for O’Neill’s incredibly precise optical printing work. The baselines for many of his compositions are time-lapsed landscapes, shot on a motion- control camera that allows precise movements to be exactly duplicated in other locales. O’Neill then sutures these shots together with high- contrast images of ghostly figures performing obscure, repetitive actions in a derelict downtown office—suggesting both the traces of the city’s vanished histories and the essential evanescence of the city itself—while George Lockwood’s beautiful sound design layers sound effects, snippets from B movies, and music from a plethora of genres over the visual field. The result is simply one of the most intense cinematic experiences one can have.

Water and Power is preceded by Babobilicons, a surreal masterpiece of time-lapse and optical printing that had a similarly prolonged production history: Daina Krumins took nine years to make the film (during which time she also worked as an optical printer operator at O’Neill’s Lookout Mountain Films), growing mushrooms, moulds and spores in miniature sets in her basement studio.—Chris Kennedy

(These notes were originally written for the 51st Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2013.)

Babobilicons dir. Daina Krumins | USA 1982 | 16 min. 35mm
Water and Power dir. Pat O’Neill | USA 1989 | 54 min. 35mm

Prints courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

Sunday, June 7 7:30pm

“Twilight Made Manifest: The Films of Phil Solomon.” June 25-28, 2015

Twilight Made Manifest: The Films of Phil Solomon
Three program retrospective. Phil Solomon in person.

“A longing for a transcendental experience, for Mystery, is absolutely at the heart of filmmaking for me.”—Phil Solomon

“Lens manufacturers, Kodak, the entire industry, have worked toward making the cinematic reproduction of life more and more real, in a surface sense. I’m something of an archaeologist in reverse: I try to discover truths in these artifacts by throwing the dirt back on them. I bury things rather than excavate them. For me, found footage has always been a way to unearth lost truths.” —Phil Solomon

“Plots stir just beneath the thresholds of perceptibility. The sea swells of these subliminal stories align images into meaningful rides but often indecipherable configurations. [Solomon’s] films invite the reader/detective to pursue the thread of narrative, but no closure is promised, no final answer lies behind the veil.” —Tom Gunning

The significance of American filmmaker Phil Solomon’s body of work over the past thirty years is amplified by the artist’s mastery of imagery that truly straddles the film/digital divide. In his early work, Solomon favoured intricate artisanal methods, subjecting found footage to high degrees of chemical processing and optically printing the results with lighting setups that highlighted the three-dimensional cracks and fissures of the distressed emulsion. In this, Solomon evinced an aesthetic interest in visual abstraction that he shared with his mentor and occasional collaborator Stan Brakhage, but he combined it with a sophisticated use of found material. Unlike many found-footage filmmakers, who used the viewer’s recognition of the material as a vehicle for irony, Solomon melted his imagery into intricate, slowly unfolding atmospheres that carried a deep emotional resonance. Solomon achieved his culmination of this style in The Twilight Psalms, a continuing series of films that uses The Twilight Zone as a loose structural guide to mysteriously evoke the dark undercurrents of the twentieth century.

This approach shifted significantly in 2005, when Solomon introduced his friend, filmmaker Mark LaPore, to the immersive videogame world of Grand Theft Auto. In one intensely productive evening, the two artists explored the environment like location scouts, and used their digital wanderings to create Crossroad, a collaborative tribute video to their colleague David Gatten, who at the time was suffering from a serious illness (which he later recovered from). When LaPore himself tragically died soon after the completion of Crossroad, Solomon created a trio of videos, collectively titled In Memoriam—consisting of Rehearsals for Retirement, Last Days in a Lonely Place, and Still Raining, Still Dreaming—that used the landscape of GTA as the visual source material.

While this imagistic shift came as a complete surprise to those familiar with the artist’s work, Solomon’s deft cinematic phrasing is still very much in evidence here. His faith in the environment as a fitting tribute to LaPore is vindicated over the course of the cycle, as the films resonate with an energy akin to that of the edgy, dystopian ethnographic explorations found in LaPore’s own work. (The parallels between Still Raining, Still Dreaming and LaPore’s The Sleepers is especially uncanny.) Surprisingly for an artist so adept with the optical printer, Solomon fully embraced the underappreciated dexterity needed to détourne a videogame towards his cinematic needs, and his current work has shown him as much at home in this vectored contemporary landscape as he had been amongst the chemical inducements of the past.

The shadow of death hangs over much of Solomon’s work. Early films like The Exquisite Hour and Remains to Be Seen meditate on the loss of his parents, while Seasons…, his late collaboration with Stan Brakhage, has mortality inscribed in its very method: Brakhage made the film by carving into the emulsion, as he had been forced to abandon his previous painting-on-film technique because the coal-tar dye of the paints he used had been a contributing factor to his eventually terminal cancer. On a larger canvas, The Twilight Psalms and the three-channel installation American Falls speak to the deep fissures of the twentieth century and, especially in the latter, the decline of the United States.

However, Solomon finds a resonant beauty in these shadows. (And in fact, his chemical processes themselves—which make imagery appear to rise from the projected surface as if embossed—rely on shadow, activating the silver halides that create darkness in the film frame.) In both their physical being and experiential form, Solomon’s films find that place where the elegiac becomes the ecstatic, pushing the cinema forward towards an ultimate, unyielding sublime. —Chris Kennedy

Still: Crossroad


Early Work & Collaborations

From its very beginning in the early 1980s, Solomon’s work displayed a distinctive style that garnered attention. Tom Gunning grouped him with some of his contemporaries (including Lewis Klahr, Peggy Ahwesh, and Mark LaPore) in an essay titled “Towards a Minor Cinema,” which acknowledged these artists’ turn away from the romantic ego of psychodrama (à la Stan Brakhage), the conceptualism of structural film (à la Michael Snow), and the political theory of New Narrative (à la Yvonne Rainer) to a more expressive lyricism of image and montage. Solomon’s reanimation of found footage was central to this break; in particular, The Secret Garden (which Gunning describes as a “sensual festival of color”) demonstrated how an artist could harvest footage from unlikely sources (here, the 1949 Hollywood film of the title, as well as The Wizard of Oz) in order to create a new form of storytelling. This preternatural blend of imagery finds earlier precedents in What’s Out Tonight is Lost (recently restored by the Academy Film Archive) and the moving The Exquisite Hour.

While Gunning’s essay located Solomon on the other side of a generational divide from his experimental-film forebears, a teaching appointment in Boulder, Colorado found Solomon lecturing alongside Brakhage. Solomon’s technical assistance to the older artist in optically printing Brakhage’s hand-painted work quickly led to a fruitful collaboration, and the two subsequently worked on a few film projects together, including one of Brakhage’s last works, the beautiful and evocative Seasons….

What’s Out Tonight is Lost dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1983 | 8 min. 16mm
Crossroad dirs. Phil Solomon & Mark LaPore | USA 2005 | 5 min. video
The Exquisite Hour dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1989/1994 | 14 min. super 8 on 16mm
The Secret Garden dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1988 | 17 min. 16mm
Seasons… dirs. Phil Solomon & Stan Brakhage | USA 2002 | 18 min. 16mm
The Snowman dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1995 | 8 min. 16mm

Thursday, June 25 6:30pm

 


The Twilight Psalms

Its name a play on that of The Twilight Zone (and with each of its individual installments adopting the title of an episode from the television series), the ongoing Twilight Psalms is the centrepiece of Solomon’s oeuvre. Emulating the creeping unease of its almost-namesake and evoking a plaintive millennial regret, this series of films goes beyond personal narrative to address the failings of history, looking back at the pains (and horrors) of the twentieth century and directing a so-called “minor” cinema towards grander gestures and a more expansive conceptual ambition. The Psalms also showcases some of Solomon’s most stunning employments of optical printing, particularly in the two central films Walking Distance (which uses footage of Harry Houdini to evoke the physical difficulty of escape) and Night of the Meek (which links imagery from Paul Wegener’s The Golem and James Whale’s Frankenstein to the industrial-scale pogrom of the Holocaust); the bronzed and embossed figures in the former and the black-and-white decay of the latter are some of the most visually compelling images created during the century’s turn. Our screening of The Twilight Psalms is preceded by Stan Brakhage’s First Hymn to the Night – Novalis, which was made in the period immediately preceding his collaborations with Solomon.

First Hymn to the Night – Novalis dir. Stan Brakhage | USA 1994 | 3 min. 16mm
Psalm I: “The Lateness of the Hour” dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1999 | 10 min. 16mm
Psalm II: “Walking Distance” dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1999 | 23 min. 16mm
Psalm III: “Night of the Meek” dir. Phil Solomon | USA 2002 | 23 min. 16mm
Psalm IV: “Valley of the Shadow” dir. Phil Solomon | USA 2013 | 8 min. video

Saturday, June 27 1:00pm

 


In Memoriam

“Do you think the end of the world will come at night time?” “Uh-uh. At dawn.”Rebel Without a Cause

One of Solomon’s earliest films, Nocturne uses time exposure to capture the lightplay of darkest night. The lights and shadows of the neighbourhood around Solomon’s home are blended with footage of air raids from World War II, creating a disturbing yet compelling vision of suburban anxiety and the historical memories that haunt the night. This nocturnal unease returns in the In Memoriam trilogy—made in response to the death of Solomon’s lifelong friend Mark LaPore—where Solomon guides us through the dystopic hinterlands of Grand Theft Auto to find uncannily affecting landscapes that speak to loss, solitude, and departure. The programme concludes with one of Solomon’s most stunning films, Remains to Be Seen, a memorial to the artist’s mother that chemically transforms found images (of a ghostly cyclist, surgeons around an operating table, and others) to create haunting visions of a life once lived.

Nocturne dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1980 | 8 min. 16mm
Rehearsals for Retirement dir. Phil Solomon | USA 2007 | 11 min. video
Last Days in a Lonely Place dir. Phil Solomon | USA 2007 | 20 min. video
Still Raining, Still Dreaming dir. Phil Solomon | USA 2008 | 12 min. video
Remains to Be Seen dir. Phil Solomon | USA 1989/1994 | 18 min. super 8 on 16mm

Sunday, June 28 8:00pm

 

Phil Solomon’s Empire x 8 was installed concurrently at the Ryerson Image Centre from April 29 – June 28, 2015.

“Madison Brookshire: Color Series.” July 23, 2015

Madison Brookshire: Color Series

“I wanted to make movies that you did not just watch, music that you did not listen to, but felt and understood and thereby came to know something useful, true, and beautiful about the world.”—Madison Brookshire

Madison Brookshire comes to his filmmaking through his attentiveness to the practices of contemporary musical composition. Inspired by composers such as La Monte Young and Éliane Radigue, as well as his studies with James Tenney and James Benning, Brookshire approaches time experientially, drawing our attention to the manner of its unfolding. His camera-less Color Series was made by providing the film laboratory with six written scores that directed the film timer to change the printing lights from “Red” to “Green” to “Blue.” The result is a series of slow fades from one colour to the next, which, not unlike the experience of a sunrise, immerses the viewer in the perceptual phenomenon of gradual change. As Brookshire writes, “The subject of the work is duration, and color is the medium through which we experience it. The converse is also true: the subject is color and duration is the medium. The effect is a direct experience of time and vision.”

Color Series is preceded by a more recent film, the ever-evolving Veils, which was made by soaking pieces of celluloid in paints, urine, and various other liquids, and then allowing the assorted ravages of time—evaporation, dust, crystallization and mold—to inform the image. The film’s frenetic pace contrasts with the calm gradualism of Color Series, as Brookshire’s attentiveness to time here describes an organic density of lived experience. Veils is accompanied by a recording of a Brookshire composition performed at the Exploratorium in San Francisco by Brookshire, Ben Bracken, Ezra Buchla, Heather Lockie, and Laura Steenberge.—Chris Kennedy

Veils dir. Madison Brookshire | USA 2013 | 15 min. 16mm
Color Series dir. Madison Brookshire | USA 2010 | 74 min. | 16mm

Madison Brookshire in person.

Thursday, July 23 8:45pm

Still: Veils

“Letters and Notes, Lost in a Room.” August 21, 2015

Letters and notes, lost in a room

David K. Ross’ The European Rooms anchors this programme about the confines of built environs and their representations. The video takes us through the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, which are small-scale replicas of rooms built during the Enlightenment. Capturing the rooms in a seamless, gliding pan, Ross disrupts our sense of proportion while highlighting the extraordinary detail and craftsmanship of these dioramic representations of privilege and prestige.

Vincent Grenier’s World in Focus plays even more intensely with scale: using a close- up lens to examine a large atlas, Grenier reduces cities and continents to patterns of dots and lines, living under the looming shadow of the turning pages. Sergei Loznitsa returns us to a more human plane with The Letter, a portrait of a psychiatric home in rural Russia; the film’s glowing black-and-white imagery gains even more poignancy when we consider that such institutions were often employed as a means to curb dissent during the Soviet era.

The programme begins and ends with two films by San Francisco Bay Area artist James Sansing, both of which material filmed at an abandoned juvenile hall. Samsing has worked with this building over several years, documenting its gradual decay in both still and moving images. In Forsaken, he explores the interior classrooms and hallways, while in Verses he concentrates on the rotting pages of notebooks and ledgers left behind by the institution’s former inhabitants.—Chris Kennedy

Forsaken dir. James Sansing | USA 2010 | 6.5 min. 16mm
The European Rooms dir. David K. Ross | Canada 2014 | 27 min. video
World in Focus dir. Vincent Grenier | Canada/USA 1976 | 20 min. 16mm
The Letter dir. Sergei Loznitsa | Russia 2013 | 20 min. 35mm on video
Verses dir. James Sansing | USA 2012 | 4 min. 35mm

David K. Ross in person.

Tuesday, August 25 6:15pm

 

“Thresholds and Sensations: The Cinema of Marie Louise Alemann,” curated by Federico Windhausen. October 13, 2015

Thresholds and Sensations: The Cinema of Marie Louise Alemann
curated by Federico Windhausen

“This programme provides an introduction to the cinema of Marie Louise Alemann, a major experimental filmmaker who remains virtually unknown outside of her adopted homeland of Argentina. Born Marie Louise Steinheur in Germany in 1927, Alemann left Europe for Argentina in the late forties and began her filmmaking practice in the late 1960s. She later became associated with a loose-knit collective of fellow filmmakers in Buenos Aires, which included her fellow émigré Narcisa Hirsch, Claudio Caldini, and Juan Jose Mugni, among others. Distinguishing Alemann not only within the Argentine group, but also in the broader context of the era’s alternative cinemas, is her unique exploration of cinematic performance: she often presented herself and other performers in staged and improvised scenarios, populating urban and rural spaces with odd, menacing, or humorous props and costumes, and filming them in a visual style that ranged from the decorative to the minimalist.

Beyond the films themselves, Alemann’s legacy extends to the artist’s important work within institutions of culture, most prominently the Goethe Institut that was established in Buenos Aires in 1967. At a time when Argentina’s military dictatorship was waging a campaign of state terrorism against anything that smacked of leftism and political dissidence, Alemann helped establish the Goethe as an institutional home for experimental cinema—and remarkably, none of the Super 8 filmmakers whose work was screened at the Goethe were subjected to direct political repression during the dictatorship.

As this programme of her own and her colleagues’ work demonstrate, Alemann was not only attentive to the need for a semi-protected space for alternative culture in Buenos Aires, but was also willing to take risks within that space. Among the most notable dictatorship-era works in her neglected filmography are her allegory of “disappearance,” Sensation 77: Mimicry, and Thresholds, which deserves to be regarded as a major work of Latin American queer cinema. —Federico Windhausen

Autobiografico 2 dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1974 | 5 min. super 8 to sd transfer
Vanessa dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1974 | 6 min. super 8 to sd transfer
Untitled dir. Juan José Mugni | Argentina 1975 | 5.5 min. super 8 to sd transfer
Self-Defense (Legitima defensa) dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1980 | 8 min. super 8 to sd transfer Sensation ’77: Mimicry (Sensación 77: Mimetismo) dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1977 | 8 min. super 8 to sd transfer
Table Scenes (Escenas de mesa) dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1979 | 8 min. super 8 to sd transfer
Thresholds (Umbrales) dir. Marie Louise Alemann | Argentina 1980 | 19 min. super 8 to sd transfer
The Bengali Night (La noche Bengali) dir. Narcisa Hirsch | Argentina 1980 | 6 min. super 8 to sd transfer

Federico Windhausen in person.

Co-presented with FADO Performance Art Centre.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 6:30pm

“Ellie Epp: Elements of Contact.” November 12, 2015

Ellie Epp: Elements of Contact

This new quintet of digital videos represents a return to moving image-making for Ellie Epp, whose previous four films hold a significant place in the history of Canadian experimental filmmaking. Born in rural Alberta, Epp travelled to London in the 1970s and became an observer of the London Filmmakers Co-operative scene. Inspired by Chantal Akerman’s Hotel Monterey—she described it as the film that “lit the fuse … It was the sense that you could use film to engineer a change in consciousness”—Epp shot her first film trapline over a period of months at a Victorian-era swimming pool, creating eighteen minutes of pure cinema out of twelve shots that offer a series of observations on reflection, refraction, presence and perception. Returning to Canada to edit trapline, Epp settled in Vancouver and embarked on notes in origin, a project that returned her to her northern Alberta roots. In ten long takes, Epp creates a beautifully intimate portrait of the rugged rural landscape, her attention to the anti-spectacular evoking the possibility of the sublime.

Epp’s latest videos—made after nearly a twenty-year hiatus in moving-image work, during which time Epp completed a PhD in neurophilosophy and taught for several years at Goddard College in Vermont—feel very much of a piece with the artist’s earlier films in their interest in the expressiveness of water, commitment to duration, and ability to acutely direct our senses by highlighting a felt absence in the frame. A statement Epp made over fifteen years ago frames these new videos well:

“Technically, duration is something quite particular—when you keep seeing something that doesn’t change very much you stabilize into it, you shift, you get sensitive, you cross a threshold, something happens…. It’s an endless source of pleasure and knowledge…. [When I first] made the crossing, it was ecstatic. What it is, is that deep attention is ecstatic in itself.”

by the lotus dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 2013 | 3 min. video
notes in origin dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 1987 | 15 min. 16mm
trapline dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 1976 | 18 min. 16mm
o sea dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 2015 | 5 min. video
ob pier 5, 3 movements dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 2015 | 8 min. video
here dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 2015 | 4 min. video
last light dir. Ellie Epp | Canada 2015 | 7 min. video

Ellie Epp in person.

Thursday, November 12 6:30pm

“Cineblatz! The Films of Jeff Keen.” December 17, 2015


Cineblatz! The Films of Jeff Keen

Combining lowbrow humour with a masterful command of collage—as if George Kuchar’s films had been edited by Robert Breer—the eye-popping films of Jeff Keen careen through the projector at a frenetic pace as cut-out images collide with each other one frame after the other, costumed guests carouse and fight in the local dump, and plastic toys burn to bits in elaborate dioramas. Influenced by his experiences in the British army during World War II and fired by his abiding love for comic books and pulp novels, Keen produced more than eighty films over his long career, his insatiable creative energy only ceasing upon his passing in 2012 at the age of eighty-eight. More a creature of myth than a truly central figure of the British experimental scene (due in part to his pulpy subject matter, as well as his relative isolation in Brighton), Keen finally received some well-deserved attention near the end of his life when the BFI took pains to restore several of his films, a selection of which are included in this programme.

Originally begun as a way to provide content for his wife Jackie’s art college film society, Keen’s filmmaking soon took on a life of its own. Adopting the character of “Dr. Gaz” as a mad- scientist alter ego, Keen recruited his friends and family to perform in his films as his own gallery of superheroes: Jackie made numerous appearances as “Vulvana,” Keen’s daughter became “Stella Starr,” and visitors to the Keen household (such as Warhol Factory poet Piero Heliczer) soon found themselves in costume. Despite the surface-level kitsch of the subject matter, Keen’s films are veritable compendiums of kinetic effects and celebrations of the subversive properties of popular culture. —Chris Kennedy

Omozap 2 dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1990 | 1 min. video
Wail dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1961 | 5 min. super 8 on video
Cineblatz dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1967 | 3 min. 16mm
White Lite dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968 | 3.5 min. 16mm
Marvo Movie dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1967 | 5 min. 16mm
Rayday Film dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968-1970/1976 | 13 min. 16mm
Meatdaze dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1968 | 9 min. 16mm
The Cartoon Theatre of Dr. Gaz dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1977-79 | 12 min. 16mm on video
Blatzom dir. Jeff Keen | UK 1983-86 | 12 min. 16mm

Thursday, December 17 6:30pm

“(found) foot’-age shoot’-out: Selections from the Austrian Avant-Garde.” February 9, 2016

(found) foot’-age shoot’-out: Selections from the Austrian Avant-Garde

Austrian avant-garde filmmaking emerged from an explosive era in postwar Austrian art that was characterized by the performative gestures of the Viennese Aktionists—who transformed human bodies into living canvases in disturbing, often scandalous happenings—and Expanded Cinema practitioners, who sought to break down the medium- and site-specificity of traditional filmmaking and filmwatching. The films in this programme give ample evidence of their inheritance from both these schools, most notably in their rupturing of both the image and the human body.

The expressive reworking of found footage is a key process in the work of many of the Austrian avant-gardists. Peter Kubelka created Schwechater from material he shot when he was hired to make a beer commercial; similarly, Kurt Kren, hired to document an Aktionist happening by the artist Otto Mühl, radically deconstructed the footage by subjecting it to his own preconceived editing score to create 6/64 Mama und Papa. For Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy, Martin Arnold optically printed a romantic interlude between Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland frame by frame, creating an ecstatic, animalistic dance that slyly reveals the sexual undertones of squeaky-clean 1940s conformity. In Outer Space, Peter Tscherkassky appropriated 35mm footage from the horror film The Entity and reprinted it by hand onto raw film stock, amplifying the scopophilic horror that confronts Barbara Hershey’s heroine in the original film’s denouement.

This quartet of canonical works is accompanied by films from other significant filmmakers. In Die Geburt der Venus and Pool, Moucle Blackout and Dietmar Brehm manipulate and reframe found footage into eerie expressions of sexualization. Mara Mattuschka draws strongly from the Aktionist tradition in her work, and NabelFabel is representative of her highly wrought performances. In Hernals, Hans Scheugl follows artists Valie Export and Peter Weibel through the eponymous Vienna neighbourhood, doubling their actions into a schizophrenic montage. Lisl Ponger has long explored how the historically closed Austrian society has been gradually changed through immigration, and her film Passagen now has a new resonance as Europe is confronted with another wave of migration.

Schwechater dir. Peter Kubelka | Austria 1958 | 1 min. | 35mm
6/64 Mama und Papa (Materialaktion Otto Mühl) dir. Kurt Kren | Austria 1964 | 4 min. | 16mm
Pool dir. Dietmar Brehm | Austria 1990 | 4 min. | 16mm
Die Geburt der Venus (Birth of Venus) dir. Moucle Blackout | Austria 1970–72 | 5 min. | 35mm
NabelFabel (Navel Fable) dir. Mara Mattuschka | Austria 1984 | 4 min. | 16mm
20/68 Schatzi (Sweetie) dir. Kurt Kren | Austria 1968 | 2 min. | 16mm
Passagen (Passages) dir Lisl Ponger | Austria 1996 | 12 min. | 35mm
Hernals dir. Hans Scheugl | Austria 1967 | 11 min. | 16mm
Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy dir. Martin Arnold | Austria 1998 | 15 min. | 16mm
Outer Space dir. Peter Tscherkassky | Austria 1999 | 10 min. | 35mm

Tuesday, February 9, 9 pm

 

 

“Willy Le Maitre: The Dream of Information.” March 3, 2016

Willy Le Maitre: The Dream of Information

For the past dozen years, Canadian artist Willy Le Maitre has been using stereoscopic imagery as a means of exploring the intersections of exterior and interior vision. In his screen-based performances—which thrust the viewer into a space that the artist calls Edia, a “cosmology of digital space” wherein “the self [is] no longer confined to an individualist notion”—and series of 3D videos, Le Maitre insists that stereoscopy

has the ability not only to mirror the function of eyesight, but to open us up to possibilities that were only previously visible in the mind’s eye. Le Maitre’s work is inspired by the writings of Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker, who posits that the explosion of biodiversity in the Cambrian period of 500 million years ago was brought about by the development of vision in primitive animals—that vision, in essence, provided the evolutionary inspiration for animals to take on a plethora of new forms. Accordingly, in his stereoscopic work Le Maitre aims to move beyond merely representing the world to reimagining it.

Shooting with moving and still 3D cameras, Le Maitre takes the resulting imagery and manipulates it digitally, often letting a process develop of its own accord. Documentary images of Toronto neighbourhoods and NYC’s Zacotti Park during Occupy Wall Street blend and reshape themselves as recognizable landmarks fracture into associative patterns; texture mapping transforms recorded environments into topologies of space and pixels are set free to take on lives of their own, becoming brush strokes that “paint the dance of appearances.” The resulting visions are ecstatically surreal: beautiful and amusing apparitions that visualize an ecology of human-digital interconnectivity and extend the possibilities of the virtual world

Outlook Expressed dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2011 | 4.5 min. stereo-3d hd video
Occupy Image dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2012 | 13 min. stereo-3d hd video
After the Ediacaran dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2008 | 6 min. stereo-3d hd video
Edia, excerpts from ‘Edia’s Dividuals: The Distributed Self in Digital Space’ dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2011 | 12 min. stereo-3d hd video
Chiral Eyes dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2011 | 4.5 min. stereo-3d hd video
Detail Street Process dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2014–15 | 8 min. stereo-3d hd video
W*E*N’S Now dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2014–15 | 6 min. stereo-3d hd video
Insight’s Cataract dir. Willy Le Maitre | Canada 2008 | 7 min. stereo-3d hd video

Willy Le Maitre in person.

Thursday, March 3 6:30pm

 

“Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem,” by Akram Zaatari. April 2, 2016

Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem
dir. Akram Zaatari | Lebanon 2015 | 105 min. | TK video

In both his video work and his role as a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (an archive of photo- based research which was launched around the same time that he began making artist videos in 1997), Akram Zaatari explores how photography shapes cultural identity and representation—an issue that is particularly charged in the war-torn recent history of his native Lebanon, fraught as it is with ideological and regional tensions. The primary focus of Zaatari’s feature-length video Twenty- Eight Nights and a Poem is the Studio Shehrazade in the artist’s hometown of Saida, which has been owned and run by Hashem el Madani since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional posed photographs he created within the studio, Madani would also roam the streets with his 35mm still camera, taking candid portraits of daily life in the city. Over the decades, Madani’s portraits both in and out of the studio have become a catalogue of the way that a visual culture is formed, the changes in the conventions of posing and framing over time functioning as indexes of cultural adaptation. Deftly extrapolating from these subtle visual cues and gradually incorporating other materials such as 8mm home movies, television, and internet music videos, Zaatari undertakes a wider exploration of both the technologies of image-making and the way these technologies have changed the speed of cultural transformation.

Saturday, April 2 1:30pm

“Struggles with Apprehension: Films by Peter Gidal.” May 14, 2016

Struggles with Apprehension: Films by Peter Gidal

“I try to make films where each image, each object, is never given the hold of any recognition. Not to reproduce the given as given, to see each image, each object, each imaginary space-time narrative as imaginary projection, so that nothing takes on the status of truth. The lack of recognition … can force the construction of all representational motives as constructions, as artifice, as unnatural, as ideology, so that representation is always impossible.” — Peter Gidal

The Visible Press’ recent publication of a collection of Peter Gidal’s essays, Flare Out: Aesthetics 1966-2016 (available in the TIFF Shop), offers a welcome occasion to take another look at the British artist’s body of work. In contrast to the North American conception of Structural filmmaking practiced by Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton et al — where the reduction of cinema to formal techniques (zooms, constrained sets of images, etc.) could function as metaphors for consciousness — Gidal argued for a Marxist-inspired “Structural/Materialist” filmmaking, wherein those techniques will aid in our “unlearning” of the ideological assumptions behind such metaphors. Contending that cinematic illusionism bred passivity and capitulation to dominant forms, Gidal viewed Structuralist/Materialist film as a political strike not only against cinematic narrative, but against representation itself — a theory and practice that has attracted such acolytes as Cerith Wyn Evans (once a student of Gidal’s), Nicky Hamlyn and Emily Wardill. For Gidal, however, denial of representation is not the same thing as the denial of beauty, and his films can be richly rewarding in their evocations of the tactility of experience.

Made at the high point of the development of Gidal’s controversial ideas, Room Film 1973 belies the sweeping tone of its author’s polemics by literally being confined to a single room. Comprised of lumbering patterns of short shots, reprinted optically to enhance the grain and the colour, Room Film 1973 is experientially equivalent to groping around with a flashlight, trying to make sense of a liminal space where shadow and form intermix. The result is strangely beautiful, a profound questioning of the vision that we so often take for granted. (Michael Snow said of the film that “I felt as if my father made it, as if it were made by a blind man. I liked the tentativeness … one had to work at it, that searching tentative quality, that quality of trying to see.”)

Room Film 1973 is paired with two short pieces that take different tacks in their questioning of the cinematic image. Assumption — a tribute to the then recently deceased filmmaker Mary Pat Leece and the old London Film Makers’ Cooperative (of which Gidal was a founding member, and which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) — is a condensed, one-minute film that depicts the operations of memory as a collision of images, text, and sounds. Key centres on a photograph of Nico (Gidal frequently wrote on Warhol’s work) which Gidal abstracts beyond recognition through a zoom, legibility never fully resolving beyond a dazzling canvas of pointillist colours.— Chris Kennedy

Assumption dir. Peter Gidal | UK 1997 | 1 min. | 16mm
Room Film 1973 dir. Peter Gidal | UK 1973 | 55 min. | 16mm
Key (dir. Peter Gidal | UK 1968 | 10 min. | 16mm

Saturday, May 14, 2016 1pm

“Jorge Lozano: Tactical Visions.” June 21, 2016


Jorge Lozano: Tactical Visions
featuring videos by Jorge Lozano and Alexandra Gelis (both in person).

Jorge Lozano has been a significant player in Toronto’s media arts scene for almost four decades, as both a media maker and facilitator (his long history of contributions to artist-run culture in the city includes the co-founding of the aluCine Toronto Latin Festival). The last decade has been extremely prolific for Lozano: half of the nearly 100 works in his videography were made since 2005, and he has expanded from single-channel work to installation, most impressively with the eight-screen MOVING STILL_still life, which premiered at the Ryerson Image Centre in late 2015.

Part of this explosion of work derives from Lozano reconnecting with his Colombian homeland through frequent travel to his birthplace to lead youth media workshops, which has stoked his desire to tell stories from the impoverished areas of a country still suffering through a long-running civil war. Though fuelled by this essentially documentary impulse, Lozano is interested in finding innovative ways to present the stories he discovers. Working with a handheld DV camera, he produces portraits of his subjects that are both intimate and aesthetically bold, employing the widescreen canvas, DV’s crisp saturation and occasional multiple screens to great effect.

A natural collaborator in his work no less than his workshops, Lozano has benefited in his recent work from the creative input of Alexandra Gelis, an artist who shares both his Colombian heritage and political commitment. Their dual-screen 2012 video Kuenta offers a portrait of the Wayuu people of northern Colombia and Venezuela, celebrating their culture of weaving while alluding to the government-sponsored violence that so frequently invades their lives. D-enunciation provides even more explicit testimony to the culture of violence plaguing present-day Colombia, centring on the chilling stories of an anonymous woman in Rincon del Mar who tells of the death of her brothers and other men at the hands of a local paramilitary gang.

These two collaborative videos are flanked by an array of Lozano’s poetic shorts, which — even as they range from the overtly political to the meditative and philosophical — all evince Lozano’s fascination with and pleasure in the artistic possibilities of the visual metaphor.

May 1968 Graffiti dir. Jorge Lozano | Canada 2006 | 3.5 min. video
Tactical cycle-ordination dir. Jorge Lozano | Canada 2015 | 4.5 min. video
Kuenta dirs. Jorge Lozano & Alexandra Gelis | Canada/Colombia 2012 | 19 min. video
Menguante (Waning Moon) dirs. Juana Awad & Jorge Lozano | Canada/Colombia 2005 | 5 min. video
D-enunciation dirs. Jorge Lozano & Alexandra Gelis | Canada/Colombia 2014 | 19 min. video
resonance dir. Jorge Lozano | Canada 2010 | 7.5 min. video
The Aloneness of Photograms dir. Jorge Lozano | Canada 2015 | 4 min. video

Tuesday, June 21 6:30pm

Pleasure Dome will be presenting a second screening of Jorge Lozano’s work on Saturday, June 25.

“Born in Flames.” July 26, 2016

Born in Flames
dir. Lizzie Borden | USA 1983 | 85 min. |  16mm to 35mm 35mm Preservation Print!

Presented here in a lovely 35mm preservation print from the Anthology Film Archives, Lizzie Borden’s radical feminist masterpiece is as incendiary (and relevant) now as it was at the dawn of the Reaganite ’80s. Made over five years for a mere $40,000, Born in Flames centres on two female-run pirate radio stations that are fomenting rebellion against a patriarchal Socialist Democratic government that has not lived up to its promises. Galvanized by the suspicious death of an incarcerated activist, a grassroots “Women’s Army” agitates for direct action, their progressive move into militancy covered by the radio stations and a trio of female reporters working for a state-run newspaper. Borden employs these multiple ideological viewpoints on the narrative action to present a kaleidoscopic range of feminist viewpoints (black, white, lesbian, straight), modelling an intersectionality that was rare in those dying days of second-wave feminism. Raising the middle finger to the white male-dominated avant-garde canon, Borden’s ferocious underground classic is a cannon all its own, propelled along by a relentless post-punk energy that starts with the pumping theme song by The Red Crayola and Lora Logic and featuring performances by Adel Bertei and a young Kathryn Bigelow.

Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with restoration funding by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Film Foundation.

Lizzie Borden in person.

Tuesday, July 26 8:45pm

“Of Shadows.” August 27, 2016

Of Shadows
dir. Yi Cui | China/Canada 2016 | 80 min. | video

Yi Cui’s captivating documentary follows a group of shadow-play puppeteers through their travels in the Loess Plateau in northwest China. Representatives of a more intimate, traditional form of storytelling in the face of contemporary media spectacle, the troupe also remains committed to a nomadic lifestyle that is becoming ever more difficult to maintain in a rapidly and relentlessly modernizing China. Shadow play has long been an interest of Cui’s (this is her third film on the subject), and her spare, subtle documentary style offers a visual correlative with the two-dimensional shadow puppetry, employing deep-focus long takes to create multiple planes within the image, an effect aided by the plateau’s striking landscapes. A warm, sincere, and sympathetic portrait of a vanishing breed of craftsmen, Of Shadows is a moving dispatch on the imperilled existence (and stubborn endurance) of a wondrous artistic tradition.

Yi Cui in person.

Saturday, August 27 1:30pm

“Elke Marhöfer: Shape Shifting.” October 16, 2016

Elke Marhöfer: Shape Shifting

Rearticulating elements of anthropology and documentary, the films of Elke Marhöfer often explore the concept of affective ecology — a study that looks at the emotional relationships between human beings and the rest of the living and non-living world, and seeks to re-evaluate the hierarchal status of humans, animals, and things. Sometimes Marhöfer’s investigations are microcosmic, as in Shape Shifting, which looks at a Japanese farming practice of controlled burns, which aids in the rotation of crops in highly fertile and naturally diverse land. At other times they explore wider terrain, as in Primate Colors, which follows one detail after another in the nocturnal commercial zones of Hong Kong. Following the natural movement of the people and things in front of her camera, Marhöfer records how her subjects are constantly buffeted by the forces of global capital, a ceaseless, invisible movement which creates an almost surreal air around the spaces she films.

Surrendering her own observations to the flow of experience, Markhofer rejects the ordering imperative of anthropology, stating that in her films “No claims are made about the lives of others.” This statement is underscored by Nobody Knows, when it was made and why, a silent black- and-white film that records the Mnemosyne Atlas by Aby Warburg, an early 20th century attempt to map the life of metaphor — to see how proximate art and objects relate to each other and why.

Shape Shifting dirs. Elke Marhöfer & Mikhail Lylov | Germany/Japan 2015 | 18.5 min. | 16mm on video
Primate Colors dirs. Elke Marhöfer & Mikhail Lylov | Germany/China 2015 | 31 min. | 16mm on video
Nobody Knows, when it was made and why dir. Elke Marhöfer | Germany/UK 2012 | 10 min. | 16mm

Elke Marhöfer in person.

Co-presented with the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT).

Supported by the Goethe Institut Toronto.

Sunday, October 16 6:30pm

“Themes and Variations.” December 1, 2016

Themes and Variations

Material reflexivity has had a remarkable longevity in experimental and avant-garde practice. The self-conscious revelation of a film’s own constructedness has proven a valuable device for a range of aesthetic and political purposes, from distilling filmic elements into “pure form” to dissecting the constructedness of other fabricated systems (nationhood, gender, ideology, etc.).

While this programme is primarily focused on works from the last decade, it is bracketed by recent 35mm restorations of two films by the pioneering avant-garde filmmaker Germaine Dulac, poetic fragments whose visual experiments and stylistic gestures foreshadow decades’ worth of experimental practice. Annabel Nicolson’s Slides is a feminist reclamation of abstract expressionism, while Esther Urlus’ Konrad & Kurfurst evokes an equestrian mishap at the 1936 Olympics that bolstered Germany’s interwar identity. K (Exil) belongs to Frédérique Devaux’s multi-part series on the Kabyle Berbers of Algeria; Sara MacLean offers a Melvillian tribute to the Bluenose with Fore-and-Aft; while Rhayne Vermette’s Les Châssis de Lourdes offers a dream-logical exploration of the suburban village of Notre-Dame-de- Lourdes, Manitoba.

Étude cinématographique sur une arabesque dir. Germaine Dulac | France 1929 | 8 min. | 35mm
Slides dir. Annabel Nicholson | UK 1971 | 11 min. | 16mm
Konrad & Kurfurst dir. Esther Urlus | Netherlands 2013-14 | 7 min. | 16mm
K (Exil) dir. Frédérique Devaux | France/Algeria 2008 | 9 min. | 16mm
Fore-and-Aft dir. Sara MacLean | Canada 2007 | 6 min. | 35mm
Les Châssis de Lourdes dir. Rhayne Vermette | Canada 2016 | 18 min. | video
Thème et variations dir. Germaine Dulac | France 1928 | 11 min. | 35mm

Sara MacLean in person.

Thursday, December 1 9:00pm

“Peter Hutton: Time and Tide.” December 14, 2016

Peter Hutton: Time and Tide

Peter Hutton’s passing this summer at the age of 71 was a sad surprise. Of the generation of experimental filmmakers that came of age in the 1970s, Hutton was particularly robust (his youth was spent in the Merchant Marine), and his films evince a tireless commitment to a Romantic vision and a serene way of looking at the world that reflected both senses of the word “composed.” Influenced by the pastoral paintings of the mid-19th century Hudson River School, Hutton’s films are characterized by silent, black-and-white long takes of landscapes, cityscapes and waterways; later films introduced colour as Hutton shifted his focus more to matters of movement and time.

The films in this programme provide a short survey of Hutton’s concerns, particularly his intense engagement with the region he would live in for the majority of his life. Florence, which dates from shortly after Hutton’s move to the Hudson River watershed after school in San Francisco, is an early film in his mature style, albeit focused on intimate domesticity rather than the exteriors he would soon become best known for. As Hutton learned the region he began to explore the stunning landscapes of the northeast, as represented in the expressive black-and-white images of Landscape (for Manon). He was also drawn to the urban beauty of New York City, returning to it often in his New York Portrait series; Chapter II is an especially evocative study of the city’s ever-changing scale. Time and Tide is a culmination of these regional concerns as Hutton travels the Hudson River with his camera, which for the first time is loaded with colour negative film rather than his signature Tri-X black-and-white reversal stock. Predominantly shot on a tugboat guiding barges up the Hudson, the film perfectly captures the urbanized yet somehow bucolic interplay of the rivers that feed into our continent’s metropolises.

Florence dir. Peter Hutton | USA 1975 | 7 min. | 16mm
Landscape (for Manon) dir. Peter Hutton | USA 1987 | 18 min. | 16mm
New York Portrait, Chapter II dir. Peter Hutton | USA 1981 | 16 min. | 16mm
Time and Tide dir. Peter Hutton | USA 2000 | 35 min. | 16mm

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 6:30pm