Scenes From the Floating World Curated By Chris Gehman

Scenes From the Floating World Curated By Chris Gehman
Friday, March 25, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Introduced by Chris Gehman

The cinema allows artists to construct spaces that cannot be experienced in any other way, to work with figures and images detached from their ordinary context and returned to life in an imagined cinematic space. With one partial exception, each of these works centres on the body as it inhabits the floating world of the cinematic screen.


self-portrait in alterNation between descension & ascension by Jude Norris
Ville Marie by Alexandre Larose
Whose Toes by Barry Doupé
Very Good Advice by Jenn Norton
Aritifices #1 by Alexandre Larose
sea series # 8 by John Price


From Uptown Magazine March 24, 2011

Entering the weird, wonderful world of alternative cinema
Two programs of boundary-pushing yet accessible shorts screen this weekend at Cinematheque

Think of the motion picture screen as a portal between very separate realms of being.

“Consider it not as a door to a fictional world, but rather to parallel or alternate reality,” explains Chris Gehman, a filmmaker, critic, and past Toronto International Film Festival programmer. It’s a world, he says, where the constraints of our world become mutable — and where issues difficult to represent, whether through language or image, can be mined.

The push past the surface realism of conventional cinema to mysteries beyond is what connects two free featured programs this weekend at Cinematheque: Scenes from the Floating World, which plays Friday night, and The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends: Part Three on Saturday afternoon. Gehman will introduce both screenings.

A simple example of Gehman’s concept is self-portrait in alterNation between descension & ascension by Jude Norris: a simple, even funny single shot of the artist trying to walk down an up escalator. Intended as an installation piece, Gehman says it’s precisely the looping repetition that makes it significant.

“It suspends time,” he explains. “And thus it makes you think about what you’re seeing.” (Indeed, there’s the added subtext of Norris, dressed as identifiably “Aboriginal,” caught hamster-like in a distinctly “Western” space.)

Then there’s Alexandre Larose’s Ville Marie, an almost psychedelic marriage of ethereal music and disquieting sound and optical process. The film won a special jury award for best Canadian work at the 2010 WNDX Festival of Film and Video Art in Winnipeg.

“The filmmaker reshaped footage of a fall through space using an optical printer,” Gehman explains. In effect, Larose stretched time to better approximate the sensation of falling — or perhaps, the terrifying way we experience falling in our nightmares.

The realm of the subconscious and the emotional is the territory of Steve Sanguedolce’s Sweetblood, featured on Saturday’s roster. What’s striking about the film — a montage of still photographs over which we hear snippets of seemingly personal confessions –— is that it doesn’t so much tell as it does evoke a story: it leaves us to fill in the blanks of the events and life experience presented.

“It works on the register of emotion,” says the program’s curator Brett Kashmere, who is also a filmmaker, writer and visiting assistant professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. “The concrete, factual details therefore aren’t explicit — and don’t need to be.

“They’re beside the point.”

The films collected in this installment of The Road Ended at the Beach series at Cinematheque once again focus on the work of the so-called Escarpment School, a body of Canadian filmmakers that share certain thematic and formal concerns.

“I see the Escarpment School as part of the Canadian documentary tradition,” Kashmere says.

However, he points out that the work is quite apart from the “traditional” documentary: it’s more personal, more experimental. This may be one reason why associated filmmakers like Mike Hoolboom (White Museum) and Gary Popovich (Elegy) have been largely neglected by Canadian film textbooks, despite enjoying acclaim internationally.

“The films are like a critique of the prevailing National Film Board approach to docs,” Gehman says. “The Escarpment School is very much about recreating documentary filmmaking.”

The personal is very much a concern in this latest collection of films, largely organized around the theme of portraits and family history. “Like many ES films, these deal with memory,” Kashmere says. “And of course, memory isn’t necessarily reliable.”

What such films get at, Gehman says, is the illusion of reality conventional film storytelling presents. “This kind of filmmaking better approximates how we actually live. And it presents a more authentic emotional texture.

“The featured filmmakers are not being obtuse, or trying to create puzzles to baffle the viewer. They’re dealing with very real, human experience: the material isn’t difficult, in and of itself.”

Indeed, some of the work is simply wonderful to experience as pure visual sensation — like Larose’s Artifices #1, which turns everyday examples of light into abstract, moving riots of colour and pattern. Or Jenn Norton’s Very Good Advice, the final images of which transform the Toronto skyline right before our eyes.

“Relax a bit,” Gehman advises the uninitiated viewer. “And just let the films happen.”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on March 16, 2011.

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