views on Views from the Avant-Garde Part 1

From: William Wees, Dr. (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Oct 16 2006 - 14:43:35 PDT

Hello, Frameworkers-

This is Part 1 of my response to this year's "Views from the Avant-Garde." Here I'll mention a few of the films that stood out for me. I hope others who were there will do likewise. In Part 2, I will comment on the programming decisions that shape the "view" of avant-garde film offered by "Views from the Avant-Garde."

At the top of my list this year is Nathaniel Dorsky's "Song and Solitude," another of his exquisite shot-by-shot discoveries of the richness of colours, the intricacies of shapes, the subtlety of textures, the eloquence of small gestures-in short, the visual wonders of the everyday world. The film is full of humour, human interest, mystery, revelation. After one viewing it is hard to say much about the editing, except that I felt it was guided by a thoughtful intuition in keeping with the careful filming of the world around him.

Ken Jacobs' "Pushcarts of Eternity Street" is another wonderful example of Ken's ability to open for inspection and delight the contents of "primitive" cinema-in this case, a busy street scene on the Lower East Side, filmed in 1903. It's a celebration of the look and feel of a time and urban mise-en-scene long gone.

Unlike any other film shown during the weekend, Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville's "Liberte et patrie" was characteristically talky, intellectually, and visually engaging. Trés français.

Leslie Thornton's "Mojave Sahara" includes many early 20th century post card photos of semi-nude Algerian women in touchingly innocent poses and footage Leslie shot during a tour of the Disney Studios (I think it was); with a sound track with extracts from a documentary about the Sahara Desert mixed with conversations between Leslie and an assistant as they make images that may or may not appear in the film. This intriguing film left me intellectually and emotionally off balance-an appropriate response, no doubt, to an "aesthetics of uncertainty" Leslie invokes in her note on the film.

Bollywood movies provided Abigail Child with the images and sound for another of her powerful found footage films, "Mirror World." Much of the imagery is digitally manipulated to produce the effect of symmetrical, mirror images that are sometimes funny, sometimes strange and disturbing. Abbie's characteristically energetic editing of sound and image drives the film forward. It was the perfect film to kick-start the weekend of screenings.

Finally, a few other films that I think deserve special mention: Wago Kreider's "Between Two Deaths," Leighton Pierce's "My Person in the Water," Vincent Grenier's "This and That," and Luther Price's "Turbulent Blues." The retrospectives of films by Saul Levine and Paolo Gioli belong in this list, as well, but see Part 2 of my responses to "Views."

-Bill Wees

William C. Wees, Editor
McGill University
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