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Archive for November, 2009

Two Takes on Marie Losier

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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