You thought I was bluffing about the whole Made in Montreal thing, didn’t you? “What, that guy who only looks at offbeat genre movies going to a screening of local abstract shorts?” Well, maybe I feel I’ve been indulging myself lately. Maybe I feel I need to broaden my horizons. Maybe the FTB editors have been giving me evil looks at parties lately.
Whatever my motivation is, Double Negative Presents: Made in Montreal vol.2 was last night, and boy was it…abstract. To the point that I actually recoiled in my chair when a coherent narrative started in one of the later entries.
While I don’t have the room to give every entry some kind of commentary, here are some of my thoughts on a few of the entries.
The night started off with the abstractiest of the abstract, with this short of “Countless lines generated and animated by computer programming form abstract sketches that shift in frenetic movements and rhythmic pulsations.” So basically it looks sorta like a flip book of somebody’s Spirograph drawings. Does anyone remember spirograph?
I will admit the effect is interesting, but it could have used a soundtrack or something, and definitely comes off as one of the more “visual experiment” type of entries, without as much artistic voice as some of the others.
Window. Dir, Michael Wees
This one, interesting visuals aside, was largely carried by a good sound design. The images were taken by a lensless pinhole camera set in front of the artist’s window, so it’s a bunch of half-visible blurs. The soundtrack, however, creates this sense of impending doom, this almost apocalyptic feeling like at any moment Jesus is going to come back and make all the Catholics burn forever for that time they thought about rubbing one out. Definitely one of the more atmospheric entries.
Locale. Dir, Zohar Kfir
If you don’t have anything nice to say….fuck it, this one played like a parody of pretentious experimental films. Lots of played out imagery with a disjointed (but not in a good way) soundtrack including a distorted voice saying unoriginal things like “pain, you are only a sensation.” The pain I felt watching it was certainly real.
The Sound of Breathing. Dir, Erin Celeste Weisgerber
This is one of the films that managed to be abstract but still have some form of coherence, being based on and set to a poem written by the director, which gives it at least some kind of anchor to keep things legible. Quite enjoyable, and I don’t just say that because I very briefly made the acquaintance of the director some time ago and I’m too much of a chicken to offend people I barely even know. Usually I just prefer to offend people in Kansas.
Plus I respect the hell out of anyone who films on 16mm.
Did I just watch two people fucking or is this like an inkblot test that just proved I need to get laid?
Racetrack Superstar Ghost. Dir, Myriam Yates
Using a static camera setup, this one juxtaposes imagery of the stands being erected for the U2 concert back in 2011 against the concert itself and the neglected buildings of the Hippodrome’s racetrack. Definitely a study in stillness, in that Jeanne Dielman kind of way but with more Irish rockers. The compositions are utterly gorgeous and it is conceptually pretty interesting, so this wound up being one of my favorites of the night.
Iran to Texas: Major Scale Minor Movement. Dir, Nika Khanjani
I think security was starting to let their guard down because someone let a film with actual narration and a coherent narrative in. The film tells the story of an Iranian refugee who comes to Texas, told by his daughter. The film actually uses the fragmented images and sound of abstract film with a definite purpose in mind, reflecting fragmented memories and recollections. The only down side is that the first of the three segments makes heavy use of an extended shot of a sunrise passing through a forest of trees, filmed from a car window. It’s very likely the intent of these sequences was to make the audience’s eyes hurt, in which case mission accomplished.
Gods, Weeds and Revolutions. Dir, Meryam Joobeur
The evening finished with a bang with this film about a woman returning to Tunisia to come to terms with her grandfather’s illness and the country’s troubled past. From a narrative perspective it’s quite good, but the cinematography steals the show. Simply put the film is magnificently filmed, with great compositions and smooth, flawlessly executed movements. The mood and atmosphere are only enhanced by this, and if the other films are going for a cinema-poem thing, this film is probably closer to a cinema-portrait. And a damn good one at that.
Images provided by Daichi Saito