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Marie Losier

By Madeline Leuby

Eccentric filmmaker Marie Losier creates wildly entertaining avant-garde films with fascinating subjects, oftentimes subjects from her own art world.  As she documents directors of avant-garde cinema such as Tony Conrad, or pioneers of unique art like the Father of Ontological Theater, she unveils her implications of the artist whom she is.  Just as a biographer unintentially inserts him- or herself into the person being biographed, so does Marie Losier in her work.

Her reinacting of Elliot Gould’s part in The Touch Retouched demonstrates her ability to recognize art, and as she shines on Gould’s role a new light, she literally places herself inside an already acclaimed artist’s work.

Another example of Losier’s creative stamp is her portrayal of avant-garde director, Tony Conrad.  She captured him in daily moments such as trying on costumes, playing the violin, and singing. While these moments may seem mundane, Losier depicts them as little moments of art history centering around Conrad’s theatrical presence.  She shows us what to recognize as art and how it should be valued.  Losier’s own artistic implications are especially present in Tony Conrad: Dreaminimalist as Conrad is a peer of hers, which helps make her documentary about Conrad an unintentional portrayal and reminisence of Losier herself.

How we see mermaid violinists, avant-garde directors, members of the theater, or women emerging from a spaghetti pot (all interesting subjects on their own) is how Marie Losier wants us to see them. Granting these artists the gift of being the focal point of her films makes us acknowledge them as artists and appreciate their work, which is Losier’s doing.

Her variety of techniques and cinematic style reveal her to be as creative and talented as the subjects she documents.  Whether or not she knows it, she, as a result, is just as interesting as her subjects. Her portrayal of each artist is presented in a way to be appreciated, for she is there too.

Marie Losier and Dance

By Katisha Hernandez

Dance is a form of expression and social interaction and is most often set to music.  Marie Losier is a music lover and filmmaker who uses her films to express herself and interact with her friends in a new way.  So, it makes sense that many of Losier’s films involve dancing.  In The Ontological Cowboy the actors dance using jerky, almost violent movements to express their feelings, which mirror Richard Foreman’s feelings about the rebirth of American Theater.  Foreman stars in and inspired Losier’s Ontological Cowboy.  Another friend who inspired Losier to create a film is Tony Conrad.  He stars in DreaMinimalist and he is dancing in the first shot we see of him.  He does happy, silly dances throughout the film and even makes his violin do a dance.  This dancing exhibits the fun-loving side of Conrad’s personality.  Conrad appears in another of Losier’s films, Slap the Gondola. In this film, a troupe of dress-clad people emerges from a huge fish and holds a celebration.  They all dance together on the deck of a ship.  Mike Kuchar, another close friend of Losier, is featured in her three-minute film, Snowbeard.  Although he is not dancing, Losier described the making of the film as “a kind of dance, though a melancholy one.”  By making films with her friends, Losier gets to bond with them.  By using dance in her films as a form of expression, she gets to incorporate her love of music in a visual way.

Robert Beavers’ Hand-Eye

By Christine Soliman

Robert Beavers is a manual filmmaker. In the article “A Few Points” (originally published by Tate Modern, London, February 2007) he states, “I hold the actual filmmaking in my hands as cameraman, film editor, sound technician, and sound editor.”

The ever-present hand of the filmmaker is demonstrated in the film AMOR (1980). Beavers shoots his hand: clapping, turning, and reaching in and out of a bush. These actions create and mimic the rhythm and movement of the entire film.

“Imagine the camera as an eye with a hand coming out of it.” Beavers said this to the audience after screening his films at the Wexner Center Friday night, November 6. He asserts the combination eye-hand as a unified filmmaking tool. This idea greatly affected my interpretation of his films as I realized that the hands are within the camera, and in front of it.

On a Meditation of Becoming

By Daniel Guarnieri

The films of Robert Beavers all weave recurring images, intentional transitions, unspecified personas, and sound to reach an almost transcendental state. AMOR uses all these tactics to create a meditation on process, on becoming, the always unfinished. Using a stationary camera, panning shots, and close-ups, the camera weaves through images of meticulously cared-for hedges, a building surrounded by scaffolding, and a suit being created, all preceded by and demarcated by a pair of clapping hands and curved frame wipes. These recurring images are clarified and focused by Beavers’ use of sound. The still hedges take on an air of meticulous upkeep and maintenance when accompanied by the quick and furious sounds of shears; the shots of the building also receive and deliver the sense of heavy and transformative work being done, because of the added sounds of hammers and voices; and the suit is given a personal and delicate sense of craftsmanship as it is carefully tailored to the accompaniment of the sounds of shears. The clapping of the hands acts as a marker to all these shots reiterating the act of creation, of work and process. The only sense of completeness comes from the unidentified man wearing the suit. The film reaches a transcendent state in the way it is paradoxically a finished work yet never complete, always moving to a more complete state that can never be reached, and in the way the hedges will continue to grow, the building will continue to wear, and the suit will eventually tear.

Robert Beavers’s Hands and Gestures

By Paula Gaetano Adi

Robert Beavers is a craftsman of filmmaking and like any other kind of artisan he manufactures, by hand and with hand tools, individual artisanal products with unique qualities. In his series of experimental films—AMOR (1980), The Stoas (1991-97), and The Ground (1993-2001)—the artisanal aspect of production is one of the most significant concepts to be considered.

Beavers performs the act of being a filmmaker. That self-reflexive behavior not only makes evident his own artistic process and the material conditions of filmmaking, but also demonstrates how the hand is the central tool for an artisanal film. For Beavers, the celluloid, the camera and the editing process are not just tools for capturing images and creating a film about something else, but mainly those are also his subjects and materials: and the distinctive tool is his own hands.

In these three films there are some clues to seeing Beavers’s profoundly physical understanding of his medium. In AMOR, his hands connote the act of directing and editing a film. One hand turns between scenes, like physically cutting the scene. Then, his hands clapping suggest and perform the actual rhythm of the film. In The Stoas, not only do his hands subtly interact with a camera, but also he places them one in front of the other in parallel, suggesting a small empty space between them… the space between the lens and the film? the eye and the camera? Finally, in The Ground, the reference is also to the camera device, but the connection this time is to the iris aperture. Beavers slowly opens his hand and then he closes it almost imitating an iris open/close movement.

As in painting, for Beavers filmmaking is inexorably tied to the artist’s hand, since an act that begins in the filmmaker’s eyes is then formed by his gestures in relation to the camera. However, it would not be fair to just say that these analogies are everything in Beavers’s work.  Those gestures are full of poetry and lyricism, and so, they also appear to be attached to another level of signification, referring to other non-cinematic human emotions.

 

Robert Beavers

By Mashiho Torrance

In the second film shown at the Wexner Center by Robert Beavers, Stoas, the contrasting elements between the urban scenes and nature scenes are interesting.  The styles in which both of these sections are shot perfectly match their respective environments.

In the city, the shots are very “square.”  There are shots of claustrophobic alleyways, forgotten boxes, and lonely openings to the street.  These all appear to be rigid and lifeless.  There is almost no movement in these shots.  The sounds which accompany these shots are mostly that of traffic in the streets.

Once the focus of the film transitions to the forest, the entire feel of the film changes.  In contrast to the mostly static feel of the first portion, the forest shots feel alive.  The river is constantly flowing, tree branches sway in the wind, and insects buzz (or flutter) around.  Sounds of the river current, wind, and birds all contribute to the feeling of life.

Crossroads of Sadness and Joy

By Effat Terman

35 Shots of Rum tells the story of an immigrant father, Lionel, his daughter, Josephine, and their friends. Almost all the characters of this film are at a crossroad of their lives and change is eminent.

Rene, a colleague of Lionel, is facing retirement, a change he has a hard time adjusting to.  Not having a job to go to is overwhelming.  He takes his life by throwing himself onto a railroad track.

Gabrielle, Josephine’s surrogate mother, is dealing with change as well.  She likes to share Josephine’s childhood memories with her, but Josephine is distant.  At some point, when Gabrielle is at the doorstep of Josephine’s apartment, she says to Gabrielle that “father is not home,” closing the door on her.

Noe, who lives next door to Josephine and is romantically involved with her, is also facing some changes.  He puts his unit on sale and wants to live in another country. The two end up getting married to each other.

France itself is going through changes confronting its colonial past.  Globalization is causing changes throughout the world as Josephine and her classmates debate on how the industrial countries undermine the Global South.

But the highly emotional change occurs in the father-daughter relationship. Lionel and Josephine have had a peaceful life together. Lionel does not wish to change that. But on a rainy night in the café, when Lionel sees his daughter and Noe kissing, he realizes that change is inevitable.  He is left to confront his life independent of his daughter.

On the wedding night, Lionel rises to the occasion; inspired by sadness, or joy, or both, he salutes his daughter by drinking 35 shots of rum.  Wonderful movie.

 

35 Shots of Rum

By Mashiho Torrance

In the film 35 Shots of Rum there is a comparison of working class life to train tracks.  Early in the film, a group of students discuss the social and economic situation of French-Africans in France.  During the discussion, one student mentions that they must “change the system”.  Soon after, there is a shot of a map showing the metro system in what I would call the “metro control center.”  Lights flicker on the map as it keeps track of the whereabouts of each train at any given time.  Like “the system” mentioned by the student earlier, it seems as though the working class are stuck on a set path that they cannot escape.

There is also the case of the middle aged railway worker, René, who eventually commits suicide days after celebrating his birthday.  In one scene, he is standing in front of his locker preparing to leave work.  Taped to the inside of the locker is a picture of a man balancing dishes on the end of sticks.  He removes the picture and puts it away.  Did he once dream of becoming an entertainer at one point in his life?  Perhaps, however, unable to leave the tracks, he ultimately dies on them.

 

They Love Each Other

By Daniel Guarnieri

The film is about love. Each character comes from an unseen past and each relationship is of a different nature, however they all exude a love for one another. Noe’s affection for Jo is palpable, and Denis’ close-ups illustrate this unrequited love or past mistake as he stares at her. Gabrielle’s sad eyes and forlorn glances to Lionel speak of this same unreturned affection yet they both open their arms in feeling for one another. Rene’s devotion to his work is written across his troubled face as he opens gifts at his retirement. Lionel and Jo’s love and affection is strewn across food and in their enveloping hugs. Each relationship is different yet they all contain love and warmth for each other, sharing food and conversation and moments with one another: kind, compassionate, and devoted. The scene at the cafe typifies this portrayal of love; as Lionel takes Gabrielle to dance he holds her close smiling, then moves to his daughter who is in turn taken by Noe to dance. The love in this film greets you like Lionel greets those he loves: arms outstretched with kind words and a radiant and compassionate smile.

Traveling with Janie Geiser

By Katisha Hernandez

Traveling seems to be a theme in many of Janie Geiser’s short films.  Perhaps this is because the found objects featured in many of the shorts have done a lot of traveling themselves: from a factory, to a commercial store’s shelves, to a child’s playroom, to a second-hand store, to Janie Geiser.  In “Lost Motion” we see a toy figure of a man, images of a map on a table, a suitcase, and a train, leading the audience to infer the man is traveling somewhere.  “Ultima Thule” features a plane, although the passengers aboard don’t reach their destination, as the plane plunges into the sea.  Another vehicle that may not reach its destination, is the truck seen in “Terrace 49.”  The truck is traveling downhill, perhaps to its destruction, but traveling nonetheless.  Although “Magnetic Sleep” does not feature found objects, traveling is still a theme and in more than one way.  The woman travels from a circus to a village and from the conscious to the subconscious, in her work as a hypnotist.  The main characters are not the only ones traveling during these films; the audience travels, as well, into a world of curiosity and the uncanny.

 

The Threads that Bind Them

By David Murphy

In viewing nine films in one sitting by the talented animation artist, Janie Geiser, the vast overlapping of similarities between the films become unmistakably apparent as they begin to knit the films so closely together that, with the exception of the titles and credits, they become seamless as the point in which one films begins and the other ends becomes transparent.  Both sound and visual elements are seen and heard repeatedly throughout the films.  Sound elements include running water, wind, rainstorms and thunder, calling of birds, clanging and clattering wood and metal, footsteps, clock bells, and sounds of vehicles passing by.  While visual similarities include antique-wood and metal figurines, cut-out paper figurines, layering of images and objects, lines moving across the screen, pulsing light, constant spinning of objects, cut-out paper either seen as a shadow or a window through which all other images can be seen, and finally, the way in which all the films are dark and gloomy, yet full of rich subdued colors.  Because of the tremendous amount of connections seen time and time again, we can begin to view these films as a whole or as a loop in which, after removing the titles and credits, the films could be put back together in any order as the sound and visual qualities become the thread that binds them.

 

Re-animation

A brief essay on Janie Geiser’s short films

By Jenny Fine

Paper-doll dresses, static female figurines, children’s toys from another time–these are the subjects of Janie Geiser’s short films.  These are the objects we once touched, we once animated, the tools of our childhood imaginings, now discarded, out-grown, chipped, worn-out, given away, rediscovered, collected, befriended, and reanimated by Geiser.  We look at these reanimated objects and we recall the hands that once held them, animated them, our hands, now absent from the image.  Watching Geiser’s films one recalls the places, stories, and names we once gave our beloved objects.

Janie Geiser takes on the role of puppet master in her films, animating these re-appropriated objects, however the viewer does not see her hands, which bring to life these objects.  And in her doing so, the viewer is granted the opportunity to see inside the imagined narrative that Geiser has constructed.  That the puppet master is hidden yet ever present suggests that these objects have a mind and a story of their own.  A story in which dolls wander through layers of flat space created by multiple exposure to the 16mm film suggests a suspension of both time and space—between here and there, now and then, memory and imagination.

1950s Repression in Cairo Station

by Kathleen Segna

Cario Station is a film noir set in a train station, which unveils the social economics of the Egyptians. The film reflects the repression of the bottom-feeder workers and the sexual frustration of the 1950s era.

Qinawi the retarded social misfit, is the main character that exemplifies the madness of his societal role. Qinawi is sexually frustrated and is voyeuristic, which leads him into social troubles. He gets beaten for ogling a woman who calls out for help. A lot of close up shots of his eyes are cut with close ups of women or women’s body parts. He carries with him cut outs of pin ups, and his homely pad is decorated with these magazine rip outs. His sexual frustration becomes worse when he becomes obsessed with Hanuma, who is the “Marilyn Monroe” for the Egyptian Cinema. Her over-sexualized character makes Qinawi go mad to the point of no return. He is like Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchocock’s “Psycho”—the two characters are relatable in that their desire for women takes a deadly toll. Hanuma–the objectified sexual desire of the 50s playing the “Marilyn Monroe” role of sexual freedom–shows how the 1950s era was not ready for such a taboo subject, which was probably why “Cario Station” was banned.

 

Cairo Station

By Mashiho Torrance

Cairo Station is an interesting film because it depicts Cairo, Egypt during a transitional stage.  A major theme within the film is Cairo’s “westernization,” and evidence of this can be seen throughout the film.  The selling of soda pop, increased female sexuality, and various western popular imagery (mainly in the form of magazine cutouts and billboard signs).  In one scene, passengers dance to westernized music as the “soda pop lady” (one of the main characters) hands out refreshments to passengers on a train.

In contrast to this, there is a scene where the main character (the cripple) is scolded by a traditionally dressed middle-aged woman for simply looking at her.  This film deals with pent up sexual frustration in the Muslim world, and how westernization exposes these men to an aspect of life which had previously been hidden from them.  A constantly recurring image is a close-up shot of the cripple’s eyes, intensely gazing at something he knows he cannot have.

Salvation Hunters

By Mashiho Torrance

Salvation Hunters is a film about faith.  Faith in the world, faith in the future, but primarily faith in one’s self.  Does religious faith also have a place in this film?  At first glance one might think so.  In the dilapidated apartment room in which the three protagonists stay, the words “God bless our home” hang on the wall.  On a boarded up door on the street, the words “Jesus saves” are painted on a plank of wood.  An obvious reference to demons/the devil is made apparent when the pimp stands in front of ox horns mounted on the wall, creating the illusion that he is a beast.

What does this all mean?  If one notices, all religious references only appear in scenes that take place within the city.  Has God truly blessed that dilapidated apartment? Does God truly save the beggars and orphans on the streets?  Towards the end of the film, all of the main characters take a trip to the countryside, where “Dreams can come true.”  Here, the main male protagonist, “the boy”, conquers his “demons” by physically beating the shit out of the literal “demon” of the film (the pimp).  Instead of relying on God or religion to solve his problems, he gathers up the courage to solve them himself.  In nature, survival is totally dependant on self reliance.

Salvation Hunters’ Literal Uphill Struggle

By Kyle Wyant

Salvation Hunters follows the story of three young characters, heavy with the burdens of life, as they try to rise out of their world of mud to the land of the sun. This uphill struggle, represented quite literally throughout the film, serves as the adhesive binding the entire narrative together. The boy, eager to better himself, braves a comically large ladder, desperate to pull himself out from his surroundings. Unfortunately he is denied access as he reaches the top and is forced to climb back down into the world of mud. Later, after meeting a seemingly good-hearted businessman, the trio follows him into his home, hopefully striding up a long staircase. However, a fact that our travelers didn’t notice was that they were leaving behind the light and climbing into the darkness; a clever trick by the evil businessman. Finally, as the film reaches its finale, the band of characters scale a large dirt wall, up to a beautiful field promising happiness and the fulfillment of dreams. After literally dragging the businessman up the wall, the boy is forced to throw him back down, into his world of mud, leaving the trio in their land of the sun.

Nati Baratz ‘s “Unmistaken Child”

A ten-minute essay by Paula Gaetano Adi

Observing rather than explaining the ancient traditions, the film follows a young Tibetan Buddhist monk whose life’s mission is to find the reincarnation of the legendary Geshe Lama Konchog.

The film itself is an act of faith, and so, works as some kind of experiment for our western rational minds. Who can believe that just by following some unclear and diffuse clues someone can find the reincarnation of a deceased person?

one. abduction. Post-cremation signs indicate the Buddha would likely return, reincarnated as a child: the direction of the smoke, the white pearls and a foot-print in the ashes.

two. deduction. A Taiwanese astrologist predicts the child should be one-and-a-half-year-old boy, living in a place starting with the syllable TS and whose father’s name begins with an A. In the remote Tsum Valley, the monk found a boy that recognizes Geshe Lama’s prayer rosary: the boy is about one year old and his father name is Alphe.

three. induction. In a Lamas’ meeting, they test the kid about six times. When presented with multiple items that belonged to Konchog, they asked the kid which objects belong to him: the right rosary, prayer bell, white scarf and hand drum were picked.

The new embodiment of the Geshe Lama was found. Whether we believe or not in reincarnation, when the film is finished, the question is installed in our skeptical minds.  Using our occidental way of reasoning, the film seems to use these three stages to at least shake and destabilize our rational unfaithful conceptions.

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