Guest Programme: Media City: This Is Then Now And Here

24 March, 2012 - 11:00
KASKCINEMA
Canadian Films from the Collection of the CFMdC (1967–1979) Samengesteld door / Curated by oona Mosna and Jeremy Rigsby

 

The “Canadian sensibility”, according to the literary critic Northrop Frye, is less perplexed by the question “Who am I?” than by the riddle “Where is here?”1 Frye was in no sense concerned with, or even aware of, the practices of structural/materialist2 filmmaking then gaining traction in the 1970s. But this was an arena in which Canadian artists made a significant contribution on an international scale – it remains one of very few disciplines in which Canadian artists have been so visible. It could be that their prominence was at least partly facilitated by materialist film’s demand for what Canadians, in Frye’s formulation, could readily supply: creative imaginations predisposed to and expertly ca- pable of problematizing their environment. For Frye, the Canadian preoccupation with place indicated an emotional and formal immaturity of Canadian letters, diminishing its relevance to the psychological and existential big leagues of world literature. But this “impersonal” position is valorized by materialist film theory and its attempt to purge the cinema of its fictive conventions and spectacular passivity: rejection of illusory, narrativist scenarios, rejection of the identification of audience with object. In retrospect it should be (and has been) asked how much Canadian filmmaking in the 1970s really did conform to the most “rigorous” demands of the materialist project. Some films presented here do incline to other interpretations, stressing the social, sensual or personal aspect of their depicted space. The era and its films are nonetheless worth re-examining in light of the prevalent filmmaking discourse of the time, both to recall the importance and influence of Canadians in this period of film history, and to reconsider the continuing relevance of materialist practices in contemporary filmmaking.

This program presents five films from the collection of the Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Centre, rep- resenting some of Canada’s best-known filmmakers. Sites and surroundings are activated through devices such as framing, duration, depth of field and permutation; here this is then and now.

1. Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, 1971

2. By “structural/materialist” we here and afterwards mean that film culture originating primarily around the London Film- maker’s Co-op (1966–1999). 

Standard Time

Michael Snow
,
CA
,
1967
,
16mm
,
colour
,
8'

Standard Time was the second work to begin to explore the vocabulary of camera movement. It uses horizontal and vertical pans from a tripod. The soundtrack came from using the radio as a musical instrument. I ‘played’ it using the station dial, the volume dial, and the bass and treble. The sound imitates, in a sense, the visual movements in the film.” (MS) 

Canadian Pacific

David Rimmer
,
CA
,
1975
,
16mm
,
colour
,
9'

“Vancouver harbour, with its rail yards, mountains and passing ships, is a vista in fluid transformation as three winter months are reviewed in ten minutes. What interested me about the shot were the horizontals: train tracks, the water, the mountains, the sky. In the way those four elements would change.” (DR) 

Opus 40

Barbara Sternberg
,
CA
,
1979
,
16mm
,
colour
,
14'

Opus 40is about repetition: repetition in working and living, repetition through multiplicity and series, repetition to form pattern and rhythm, repetition in order and in revealing. It was filmed in the Enterprise Foundry, Sackville, New Brunswick. Excerpts from Gertrude Stein’sThe Making of Americans can be heard throughout. 

Interieur Interiors (to A.K.)

Vincent Grenier
,
CA
,
1978
,
16mm
,
b&w
,
15'

“Interieur Interiors (To A.K.) creates a cinematic space that remains separate from representation, severed from the profilmic but nevertheless presenting an illusion of space. It is a film that hovers between conceiving the interrupted projection beam as an image... and conceiving it as a non-image, a mere illumination of the surface on which it falls. The gap between these extremes is posed by Grenier’s film as the raw data of cinema, the interval in which structural aspects of the medium’s depiction of space are revealed.” (Grahame Weinbren and Christine Noll Brinkmann) 

Trapline

Ellie Epp
,
CA
,
1976
,
16mm
,
colour
,
18'

“Several filmmakers continue to explore space and landscape on film. [...] Ellie Epp’s Trapline is the most cooly beautiful of all: filmed in the Silchester Road Pub- lic Baths, London, it sets a sequence of geometrically organized shots, outwardly but gently alive with light changes, ripples and reflections, within the continuous, distantly reverberant sound space of the entire building.” (Tony Reif) 

Time's Wake (Once Removed)

Vincent Grenier
,
CA
,
1978
,
16mm
,
colour
,
14'

“Described as a ‘collection of windows on a personal past’. Time’s Wake (Once Removed) incorporates material from an earlier version. On the earlier version:made from material I collected through the years when I went back to visit my parents at L’Ile d’Orleans, Quebec. It includes both home movie and other types of footage. In this film, the camera ‘I, ’ in extension with home movie reality, is a living participating entity. The film represents an endearing but removed artifact, a strange contradiction between liveliness and frozenness.” (VG)