Wednesday, April 27, 2016

brouillard #14 (2014)

Image from artist.
WHO: Quebecois filmmaker Alexandre Larose made this. Here's an excellent interview with him conducted by Tess L. Takahashi.

WHAT: This brief silent film is a wonder to behold. If I attend every screening for the rest of the festival, I don't expect I'll see any stretch of motion picture nearly as breathtakingly beautiful as the ten-minute slice of paradise Larose has captured/created here. It's difficult to put into words. The best I can come up with is to describe it as a head-first dive into a living, breathing, celluloid autostereogram.

I understand it was created entirely in-camera, the filmmaker making thirty-nine trips down the same pastoral pathway, letting in just a little light at a time on each pass. The technique reminds me somehow of the early computer-aided cinematography of the very first Star Wars movie, in which multiple exposures of various mattes and models created fantasy starscapes not quite like anything humans had seen before. Of course the result is completely different, not only because of the nigh-opposite subject matter (Star Destroyers and Death Stars vs. trees, skies, and a shimmering lake) but also the gulf between servomotor precision and (presumably) handheld, organic inconsistency. But Larose's result is just as astonishing to me, seeing it on the BAMPFA screen at age forty-two as Lucas's was at the Coronet at age four.

On second thought, forget the Star Wars comparison of the last paragraph (especially if you've never been a fan of those movies); I think Danny Kasman (unsurprisingly) has captured it best in one of his letters to Fernando F. Croce upon the film's 2014 Toronto International Film Festival premiere. Let me excerpt:
it looked like a gauzy, sunny dream but felt like a lugubrious nightmare from which one cannot escape. Plunging through this nature-de-naturalized pathway at the speed of molasses, you can't tell if you are slowly swimming forward or, horribly, sinking through this pastoral smear: the images atop one another cause a normal sense of moving through both space and time to fall in upon itself, creating an undulating, rippling spatial movement. Is it fluidity, a gluey continuousness I'm experiencing, like Abbas Kiarostami's slow, real-time passage through terracotta-colored corridors in Certified Copy? Or am I having a kind of quantum vision, the ability to see multiple versions of the same space and time all at once, clouding and layering my perspective? I know not what to call any of it, really, but the experience was special.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens today 6:30 only at the Roxie cinema as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival's Experimental Shorts program co-curated by Kathy Geritz of BAMPFA and Vanessa O'Neill of SF Cinematheque.

WHY: Since 2004, the year I first began attending SFIFF as press (I cringe at some of what I wrote back then, particularly my pronoun confusion for discussing Beautiful Boxer) I've tried to make attending the annual shorts program collaboratively-curated by Geritz and an SF Cinematheque representative (at the time it was the great Irina Leimbacher) a festival priority. Some years the slate is stronger than others, but at its best, the program is the closest thing to a hour-long+ survey of the most vital recent artist-made cinema that Frisco Bay sees in a year (with all due respect to the Steve Polta-curated CROSSROADS festival and Craig Baldwin's bi-annual New Experimental Works shows).

This year's is one of the best programs in recent memory. From Jodie Mack's kaleidoscopic Something Between Us (which inspired the program title Between Us: Experimental Shorts) to Jonathan Schwartz's snowclad, intimate Winter Beyond Winter, to Adele Horne's viscerally elemental documentary Rock, Clay, Sand, Straw, Wood, to Scott Stark's intriguing, horrifying and hilarious found footage manipulation Is It True What They Say (at times oddly reminiscent of his Lo-Res Arborscope mixed-media video installation at SOMArts Gallery this past Spring), there's a real diversity of approach and effect in the selected films and videos, creating a very balanced program that's satisfying in the way it expands how the viewer imagines cinema.

At Sunday's BAMPFA screening, two of the filmmakers were on hand to discuss their work: Horne, who described how her film documented the 5-day process of building a cob cottage in Mendocino County, and Zach Iannazzi, who spoke of the chance elements in the creation of his 16mm film Old Hat (well-described by Max Goldberg here). They were joined by Michael Hopinka, the father of filmmaker Sky Hopinka, whose voice is heard on the soundtrack to his son's gorgeous landscape video Jáaji Approx (the only part of the program completely unreliant any film format, as Starfish Aorta Colossus was a digital transfer of unslit regular-8mm footage), discussing and demonstrating songs and their meaning in relation to geographical spaces; his words in both English and Hočak are transliterated phonetically in "sub"-titles centered in the video frame. Referring to the powwow happening right across the street, Hopinka led the audience in a song of healing right there in the BAMPFA theatre. It was a truly special, unexpected moment unlike any I've experienced at an avant-garde film screening before.

Unfortunately, Hopinka and Horne are not expected to attend today's Roxie screening of the same program, but Iannazzi is, and Geritz mentioned he may be joined by Scott Stark. No matter who comes to the showing, audiences will have a chance to delight to a varied program of singular work, my very favorite of which is brouillard #14. If the program order from the BAMPFA screening is maintained, it will be the first film screened, so don't arrive late!

HOW: brouillard #14 screens as a 35mm print along with four 16mm films and three video works by experimental moving image artists.

OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Today is the final day to see the 5+ hour Japanese drama Happy Hour or Federico Veiroj's The Apostate (once you've seen it check out this excellent interview), at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, and Johan Grimonprez's Shadow World, at BAMPFA.

NON-SFIFF OPTION: A 35mm Akira Kurosawa's masterful chambara explosion Yojimbo at BAMPFA, with a lecture by its senior curator Susan Oxtoby.

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