Friday, July 11, 2014

The rise of the dead, and the artificial

On the one night I attended the Media City Film Festival’s 20th anniversary event here in Windsor, and saw both of Thursday night’s international programs (12 short films altogether), the film that got the most applause was recently deceased U.S. filmmaker Standish Lawder’s Necrology (a list of the recent dead) (picture left). It was a hoot. Shot in black and white for about 10 minutes all we see is a crowd of people, roughly in pairs, as if waiting to board a commuter train at rush hour, as the camera seemingly pans along the lineup. Only later it becomes apparent that the myriad folk – men and women, young and old - many in business suits as befits the time when the movie was shot in 1970 – appear to be going up an escalator facing outward (and therefore rising to heaven or rising to the sky?). Remarkably they seem totally unaware that they’re being filmed. It’s an extraordinary short movie and, in the words of film theoretician Hollis Frampton, “The sickest joke I’ve ever seen on film.” But the kicker is the last couple of minutes when, having watched hundreds of people haplessly drift by the camera we now have to slog through credits as in “Cast - In Order of Appearance.” And so we get descriptions of “man picking his nose,” “tourist from Mexico” and “secretary, menstruating.”…..Also notable was Brazil’s Ana Vaz’s 2013’s The Age of Stone (29 min). Amidst the green savannah of western Brazil is a cragged scar of land, an open pit mine, where a few workers are laboriously harvesting white stone slabs. The slow moving camera keeps our eyes fixed on individual piles or the jagged cliff carve outs of varying heights. Gradually, however, we see built structures. At first these are tall monoliths. Then there are right angled beams framing the mine, as if this is the cast iron skeleton of a new building. Or perhaps modern ruins? A girl walks through the heaped piles and comments that it was “artificial as the world must have been when it was created.” Fair enough. According to program notes the film was inspired by the construction of Brazil’s capital city Brasilia in the 1950s, when modernist architecture was at its peak, and the artificial was sacred. …..The festival continues until Saturday at Windsor’s Capitol Theatre.

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