The Films of Frank Cole

Book Launch & Film Retrospective: Frank Cole (Introduced by Tom McSorley)
April 16 & April 17 (all screenings are different)
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Canadian filmmaker, writer and critic Mike Hoolboom and Tom McSorley have edited a new book on the films and life of Frank Cole: A Life Without Death. Cinematheque presents a launch of the new book with screenings of Cole’s works. Legendary Canadian filmmaker Frank Cole entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the first man to cross the Sahara on foot. Meticulous, fearless, obsessive and the maker of at least two bonafide masterpieces, there has never been anything in the cinema like Frank Cole. His murder in Mali in 2000 left us with a legacy of two features, a pair of award-winning short films and a mystery that may never be solved. – Mike Hoolboom

Friday, April 16 at 7:00 PM
Korbett Matthews’ The Man Who Crossed the Sahara

Shot with the same stark beauty that impelled Cole’s death-defying movies, Matthews brings us home with Cole’s family and close-up with the cameraman he dragged across the Sahara. He swims alongside best friend Rick Taylor, and then brings us to filmmaker and wordsmith Peter Wintonick (Manufacturing Consent). Each provides a fascinating, haunting glimpse into the single-minded burn that drove Cole into the Guinness Book of World Records as the only person to cross the Sahara alone. The Man Who Crossed the Sahara is a movie generous with inner and outer geographies. Not only does it travel back to Cole’s terminal point in Mali, it brings us to the Cryonics Institute outside Detroit where his remains lie in a state of deep-freeze preservation. – Mike Hoolboom, Tom McSorley

Friday, April 16 at 8:30 PM
Frank Cole’s A Life (accompanied by Cole’s A Documentary and The Mountenays)

Alternating between an enclosed room and the Sahara desert, A Life contains little dialogue and one lone male character. It offers a poetic rendering of mankind’s struggle against mortality. Cole’s first feature length confrontation with death, while occasionally impenetrable, is utterly unforgettable. As Geoff Pevere writes, “Made entirely without dialogue, and consisting of a series of rigorously composed, shot and edited images (mostly in close-up), the film tells a story that, while minimal in literal terms, strikes deep emotional and psychological chords. Visionary and obsessive, A Life is quite unlike anything made in this country before”.

Saturday, April 17 at 7:00 PM
Frank Cole’s Life Without Death

On November 29, 1989, Cole began another harrowing journey across the dangerous Sahara by camel, confronting his deeply developed obsession with death. Will the desert beat him, cause him to abandon his symbolic negation of dying? Or will he fall prey to the shifting weather patterns or political banditry in the various countries he passes through? Filmed by Cole himself, the striking images of the desert are combined with flashbacks of his beloved dying grandfather. In this, his final film, Cole creates a powerful cry for life and a moving meditation on mortality.


From The Winnipeg Free Press April 16, 2010:

Doc gives filmmaker benefit of the doubt

One of the first images of this 52-minute documentary is of the Detroit-area facility where Canadian filmmaker Frank Cole bequeathed his skeletal remains to be cryogenically frozen, a sad testament to Cole’s wholly futile desire to prevail over death.

Cole pretty much lost that bid in October of 2000, when he was murdered by bandits near Timbuktu, Mali, in his second attempt to cross the Sahara Desert on foot. His first try was completed in 1989 and resulted in his inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records. It also resulted in a self-shot documentary titled Life Without Death that was still uncompleted by the time of his death.

By his own admission, Cole was obsessed with death, turning his camera on his dying grandmother in 1979 for his doc A Documentary. When he launched his second adventure into the Sahara, he was told in no uncertain terms that the desert was crawling with bandits who had no regard whatsoever for human life. Cole ventured forth anyway, with tragic consequences.

Though much of the footage of Life Without Death is of Cole shooting movies of himself, director Matthews would steadfastly prefer to use the word “mystic” rather than “narcissist” in the film’s narrative, which tends to give Cole the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the claims of friends and fellow filmmakers who deemed him a visionary.

After seeing this documentary, I’m unconvinced.

– Randall King


A response to Randall King:

Mr. King,

Your review of The Man Who Crossed the Sahara is totally lazy (and slightly irresponsible) when considering the context of a Frank Cole retrospective and in the larger context of personal narrative in Canadian experimental cinema.

The reason I am willing to use the word lazy is that you simply write Cole off as narcissistic when “fellow filmmakers deemed him a visionary” without considering why they saw him as a visionary.

Although this doc may not have convinced you that Cole is a visionary, his films certainly should have. If his films didn’t, you should probably take the time to read Life After Death: The Films of Frank Cole edited by Mike Hoolboom and Tom McSorley for some insight.

It should be noted that many of these “fellow filmmakers” are also well respected and prolific film theorists and are considered experts on Canadian fringe/experimental film.

To re-cap, all I am saying is that since you are a critic, it is crucial to consider (and address) why these filmmakers/theorists would give Cole “the benefit of the doubt” and if that isn’t clear from Cole’s films then, in this case, it is you who has failed as an active spectator and not the films.

– Clint Enns


~ by cineflyer on April 6, 2010.

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