The Toronto International Film Festival ain’t just a September party. TIFF makes a year-round commitment to enriching our cinematic experiences in this very cinematic city. Their Free Screen series aims to highlight engaging and provocative experimental film and video work; and yes, as the name suggests, attending these screenings is absolutely free. The next installment of this always-exciting series is “Fractured Movement / Constituent Parts”, which takes place this Wednesday, July 18th, and is comprised of 7 short film/video works, with two of the filmmakers in attendance.
Once-forgotten, now-acclaimed artist Gary Beydler (who passed away in 2010) inhabited the conceptualist 1970s Los Angeles art scene that interrogated the jarring industrial landscape of the postmodern city, and his films were recently restored by the Academy Film Archive. Now’s your chance to see two of those pieces: Pasadena Freeway Stills (1974) and Venice Pier (1976). Among these classics of experimental film, the program also contains a couple of contemporary works that clearly draw on seminal influences like Beydler’s work. For example, Canadian artist Alexandre Larose’s Artifices #1 (2007) takes an ordinary nighttime urban traffic scene and transforms it into an unrecognizable, hypnotic film of swirling lights and colours. Reminiscent of the eyeball-popping space-travel sequences in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Larose’s work differs in that the final exposure of the spinning camera as mechanism of creation means the jig is up. We may go to the dark movie theatre for escapism and illusion, but Larose’s film encourages us to think of the technology that facilitates these experiences. Larose’s Ville Marie (2009) is also part of the program; it’s a lush and quiet film that slowly plays with pacing and kaleidoscopic visuals in order to build a satisfying climax that feels almost… empowering.
The partnering of Larose’s and Beydler’s work in this program begins to elucidate some kind of theme: the cinema’s magical power has always had something to do with the ways in which it creates movement out of stillness and the present out of the past. British-French artist David Kidman‘s work Stochastics is included in the program, likely due to its explicit experimentation with these uniquely cinematic magical powers. Kidman’s film shows the artist walking through military squares, a popular feature in major European cities that once boasted military might. His steps, however, are laboured. Why? As we notice the background changing markedly with almost every frame, we realize that Kidman’s film is an experiment in stop-motion animation. While the human figure appears to be walking (although with difficulty), the film is actually a painstaking examination of the tiny movements and positions that make up the act of walking (think of Muybridge’s horse). How do we understand the act of walking — of wandering — as a subtle yet important part of the identity of the tourist? (European military squares are, without fail, packed full of tourists). We take aimless and casual wandering for granted; Kidman’s film forces us to imagine having to learn to walk again, step by step by step.
Both Larose and Canadian filmmaker Alexi Manis will be present for the screening, and available for Q&A and discussion with the audience. Manis’ The Observatory (2004) rounds out the program, again highlighting the cinema’s particular magical power to transform time and space into something completely alien. Negative inversion of astronomical images spin dizzyingly, while one cannot but contemplate the power of the contrast between darkness (night sky, universe) and light (the cinema, photography — literally: drawing with light). TIFF is reliable for the fact that its cinematic menu will never be predictable: the “Free Screen” program, as always, delights, inspires, and provokes. This one is a must-see for those interested in the technologies of cinema and photography, the role of cinema in contemporary art, and the influence of conceptualist artists like Beydler on the work of contemporary Canadian experimental film.
Fractured Movement/Constituent Parts screens on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm. Check the website for details.
Toronto Film Scene is turning up the heat for the month of July and looking at Pornography as a Legitimate Art Form. Don’t miss our scintillating coverage on everything from soft to hard core films, including a look at the Feminist Porn awards, what makes a truly classic porno, erotica translated from book to screen and the golden age of geek porn.
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