Thursday, April 9, 2015

Images 2015: Reviews #1

Reviews of screenings from The Images Festival, Toronto, Canada.

The Influence of Anxiety: Recent Works by Toronto Artists

This shorts collection is united more by point of origin than any broad theme, so there's a pleasing variety to experience here. Best of the bunch is All That Is Solid (Dir. Eva Kolcze, 2014, 16 min, Super 16mm on Digital Video, Canada), which examines the austere beauty of brutalist architecture. Surveying some landmarks at York and U of T (including an excursion to the Scarborough campus), Klocze's camera moves through the eerily-abandoned campuses as in a scifi dreamscape — it conveys what it must have felt like to wander through the interior of Rama, pondering what vanished civilization might have created these brooding hulks. And then, like decaying memory, a series of corrosive manipulations degrade the solidity of the images.

Also enjoyable was A Knight's Walk (and other speculative events) (Dir. Clint Enns, 2014, 12 min, PXL2000, VHS, Flipcam, Computer Animation, Canada) whose centrepiece sequence of a mildly-disruptive rebel's supermarket dérive is recontextualized by footage of a chesspiece's moves around a board and a video game being played out. Are autonomy and determinism just different sides of the möbius strip? Under the Ashes (Dir. Dona Arbabzadeh, 2015, 9 min, Digital Video, Canada) does a nice of of layering multiple fragmentary images to give its everyday Iranian scenes (a taxi ride, a trip to the market) the feeling of memories, imbued with a vague sense of loss.

The back half of the programme doesn't have quite the same impact (although I didn't have my 3-D glasses handy to get the full impact of Blake Williams' Red Capriccio). The Fortune Teller (Dir. Annie MacDonell, 2015, 16 min, 16mm and Digital Video, Canada) leads to a beautiful "dance" at its conclusion after tracking the efforts undertaken to restore a cast resin hand from a coin operated fortune teller machine but the languid detailing of the particulars of the restoration make it feel a little slow getting there.

Screens: Friday, April 10, 9:00 p.m. @ Jackman Hall

Razzle Dazzle

This programme offers tacos and tunnels as metaphors for the feminine mystique. The title comes from one of a pair of excellent animations (Dir. Jodie Mack, 2014/2013, 5 min/5 min, 16mm, USA) that bring fabric to life in vibrant style. Razzle Dazzle's rapid-cut flurry of close-ups flips past 'til the silver threads in one swatch seem to become connected to the next, while Blanket Statement #2: All or Nothing employs knit rows as the softest/trippiest test pattern you may ever see. Wayfinding by Feel in the Spacetime Weaving Continuum (Wednesday Lupypciw, 2013, 4 min, Digital Video, Canada) also riffs on the associations between fabric and weaving, femininity and feminism by lovingly recreating a feminist talk show circa 1975. It feels a bit like a highbrow take on Portlandia's Feminist Book Store, but still evokes some sly humour: "was it macramé or was it destiny?"

Her Silent Seaming (Dir. Nazli Dincel, 2014, 11 min, 16mm, USA) is a standout here, its rhythmic pulses making it feel like the energetic bursts of a riot grrl song, with rushes of words inverting the rock'n'roll loverman cliché with the narrator reeling off the insecurities of a string of male romantic partners. Thunderbolt (Dir. Heidi Phillips, (2014, 4 min, 16mm on Digital Video, Canada) also registers as a musical experience, with its ominous synth soundtrack lingering as the rumble following an initial lightning-bolt flurry of fragmented images.

The aformentioned taco imagery is supplied by Waxing and Milking (Dir. Alee Peoples, 2014, 9 min, Super 8, USA) whose hip LA is rendered with grainy 8mm footage, and asks "what happens when you want a taco so badly you let everything else fall by the wayside?" (Also: some cool 80's popsongs, including an incredible manipulation of an INXS tune.) Fall of Communism (Dir. Hannah Black, 2014, 5 min, Digital Video, UK) asks how deep can you go as it falls through a sinkhole and takes a spelunking journey towards the centre of the earth. Sometimes a tunnel is just a tunnel.

The screening is bookended by a couple amusing shorts, including Accent Grave on Ananas (Dir. Tamara Henderson, 2013, 3 min, 16mm, Canada) providing some energetic mirror trickery and XXX-mas Barftacular (Dawn Frasch, 2014, 6 min, Digital Video, USA) couching its rape politics rage in stop-motion animation and also, um, the Ratbaby Jesus.

Screens: Saturday, April 11, 9:30 p.m. @ Jackman Hall)

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