Monday, April 22, 2013

Images 2013: Reviews #1

Reviews of screenings from the The 26th Annual Images Festival, Toronto, Canada.

Suitcase of Love and Shame (Dir: Jane Gillooly. USA, 2013. Video, 70 min.)

This is the story of Tom and Jeannie. Carrying on an extra-marital affair — forbidden love at the veterinarians' office — they have combined intimacy and surreptitiousness by communicating via voice-letters, recorded on reel-to-reel tapes and sent back and forth. Songs, confessions and banal quotidian details jostle elbow-to-elbow with sexy rendezvous planning sessions and private dirty talk. Through all these tawdry details the audience can slowly construct a narrative and make inferences about the lovers' identities.

Of course it's not going to end well: a man's voice, intoning, "I feel terribly about this, but there's nothing I can do about it," is the first thing we hear. From some and contextual hints in the background, like the crowning of Miss America 1965 and dispatches from the space race, we get a sense of the time and place that this is coming from — somewhere where D-I-V-O-R-C-E is spelled out in whispers. So this is a document of absence, of regrets at not being in each others' arms, of fear of being caught.

The raw material from which Gillooly has crafted this film has its own sense of mystery: a suitcase sold on eBay that was filled with the recordings, some slides and a few other mementos of the relationship. From this, the audio montage and sound design are the primary elements of this film. The images are often near-abstract (a blurry image of a reel-to-reel tape unwinding), with some pictures suggestively cut off, faces missing like in faded half-memories.

There's a thrill of mildly transgressive voyeurism in listening to this, even if this rare cache of analogue self-sharing might seem mild when compared to the obsessive self-documentation of our current age where we leave so many traces of ourselves and our links to others in the aether. But the fact that this film lingers in the mind comes from something deeper — perhaps from the hints that our sense of the past — and its lingering presence in our lives — is all but reconstructions.

Shorts Program: mmNemonic DVices

The distortion of the past in our memory was also a frequent theme in this curated program of local shorts — very effectively so in Days of Future Past (Dir: Joe Hambleton. Canada, 2012. Video, 7 min.) where a driver's POV shot becomes surreal and eerie as memories intrude upon day-to-day life. Dreamy, engaging stuff. Similar ideas were hinted at in the psychedelic playground excursion of The Timeslide (Dir: Ariana Andrei. USA, 2012. Video, 6 min.), looking at the elastic nature of time — how, when you're a kid, summers last forever, but before long whole years slip by you almost unnoticed. (Bonus: some ace heavy, psychotropic riffage in the soundtrack.) Christ Church - Saint James (Dir: Stephen Broomer. Canada, 2012. 16MM, 7 min.) (which also featured a cool electroacoustic soundtrack filled with "feedback soprano saxophone") used the gorgeous grain of vibrant 16mm projections, layered to near-abstraction, to suggest the entropic creep of time in observing the beauty of destroyed buildings and hinting at other kinds of transcendence that might have taken place in the wreckage of a burned-down church.

Music was at the centre of Oracle (Dir: Mani Mazinani. Canada, 2011. Video, 14 min.), featuring Udo Kasemets playing crashing chords slowly and ominously on a piano. The visuals were treated/reduced to flickering visual "noise", like a distant transmission not quite getting through intact. But the spaces between the notes parallel the way the visual space still manages to cohere into something we can recognize: or as hexagram 18 of the I Ching (which was included with the film's title) tells us: "proper control of decay affords progress and success."

Among the more purely visual exercises, Shadow Puppet (Dir: Yi Cui. Canada, 2010. 16MM, 5 min.) looked like the end of a roll from a spooky silent movie, all black and white abstraction with ancient scratches and blobs of light occasionally resolving into recognizable images. Ten Skies (Dir: Clint Enns. Canada, 2012. Video, 3 min.) was similarly abstract, and "skies" is struck out here quite deliberately. A condensed recut of a previous film with the "sky" removed, only the clouds remain here — though without context it's hard to tell what they are at all. This might have more of an impact on those who can compare it to the original, but an interesting brief exercise. rapidTransfer (Dir: John Creson and Adam Rosen. Canada, 2002. 35MM, 3 min.) was a similarly brief "microfilm" that looked like it was shot from the point of view of data being hurled through the internet, while the drifting smoke and slowly-dancing beam of light in Half Way There (Dir: Karen Henderson. Canada, 2012. Video, 2 min.) felt like time flowing backwards to reveal the cosmos... or maybe something that's closer at hand. You Are Here (Dir: Leslie Supnet. Canada, 2012. Video, 3 min), was a bit more grounded, with its stock footage and painted marks brought to bear by the rituals suggested by an animated pair of hands.

Separate Vacations (Dir: Cameron Moneo. Canada, 2012. Video, 8 min.) was an entirely different trip, rendering the familiar into something quite weird. "Somewhere under the domed city of Havana in 1998" was the introductory title card to this fantasia (and thank goodness, there was a bit of Logan's Run in the mix of reappropriated footage), which mixed movie clips and news footage to give an alternate version of US/Cuban relations and the Pope's visit to the island. I'm not sure if there was a political point lurking underneath the surface, but I dug it nonetheless.

No comments:

Post a Comment