Light is Calling!

Fringe Film at the Drive-In

Philip Hoffman

Heading now into our third year of drive-in screenings, our collective is very excited by the inroads we have made in screening fringe film publicly at the drive-in, to what has turned out to be a wanting and waiting audience. The screenings, like last year, will include content from Canadian and international fringe film, including films from Finland, Belgium and the USA.

The first film on the program, Aspiration by Constant Mentzas, uses film in a formal manner to extend time. A man drives to a secluded beach near a cliff and the water, a hammer his sole passenger, and waits. This cine-poem offers up the essence of life, time and film all together, and at once. Aspiration uses a simple trip in an automobile as metaphor for much larger issues pertaining to human emotions and existence. The film initiates this theme of travel, which surfaces periodically throughout the program.

Sprinkled throughout the program are four, 30-second trailers, Twone, made by Sami van Ingen. Perhaps it is only the screaming titles, at the start and end of the 30-second sequences that we recognise as components of the feature film trailer. Indeed it is the beauty of van Ingen’s vacant centre, the place where we are typically fed the content that suggests another way of seeing.
Next in the program are two films by American independent filmmaker Bill Robinson. Robinson has carved out a niche within contemporary fringe film as an artist of the archive, raising from the dead works that have physically decomposed due to the improper storage of volatile photographic elements. Robinson’s oeuvre fittingly begins in the archive with The Film of Her, a factual account of a forgotten player in cinema’s restoration process. Howard was a clerk in the American Library of Congress, who single-handedly prevented the hauling away of the library’s paper print collection. The memory and fantasy of an ancient piece of pornographic footage serves as his muse, as he struggles to save the collection from incineration and, ironically, himself from obscurity. In Light is Calling, footage is re-photographed from James Young’s The Bells, but here the breathtaking beauty of the physical decay of the photographic emulsion is highlighted. Compared to the more abstract Decasia (an earlier Morrison work), the director here has permitted a semblance of an actual plot from the original film: a militiaman riding, a woman waiting, a meeting, a departure. As images emerge through the painterly swirls of emulsion, the viewer is invited to reflect on the ephemeral quality of the film and, by extension, the construction of characters.

In Today by Eija-Liisa Ahtila a complex story is told from several points of view within a family of a tragic car accident, one in which a man has accidentally killed his own father. The several perspectives from which the story is told (dad, daughter, mother, grandfather) creates a poetic corollary to the complexities of interpersonal family relationships. The stories are told in a fragmentary manner, which in essence reflects the way the mind processes experiences, traumatic and otherwise.

As if in reaction to the dysfunction present in the family of Ahtila’s Today, the Belgian director Karen Vanderborght tears at the boundaries of what society says the family can be in The Happy Three Family. We watch as the ‘three wisewomen’ struggle with family drama, gossip and hypocrisy in their quest for an alternative family. Vanderborght uses innovative matting techniques to blend the Flemish past, as represented through the digital reinterpretations of medieval Flemish paintings, with the journey of the three progressive walking women.

A Little Life by Elizabeth Murray creates a breather in our program, in this miraculous, microscopic glimpse of the life of a fly. We get to know the insect intimately as we observe the mundane and sensational aspects of its life.

The Travelling Eye of the Blue Cat by Shawn Atkins, takes us on a surrealistic journey, one that seems as unpredictable as dream itself. The film combines photo-collage and animation to tell the story of a girl awoken one morning by a mysterious seagull, which crashes against her bedroom window. Following the bird into an abandoned garden, the girl begins a circuitous quest in which the sheer beauty of symbols and their unpredictable collision, becomes more significant than the cohesive narrative we have come to expect in mainstream dramatic fiction.

In the summer of 1982, during a visit to his hometown, Clive Holden witnessed the murder of a teenage girl – killed by a sniper on a quiet, suburban street. He returned a year later to lie with his camera on the spot where she died, and to roam the neighbourhood and revisit the tragic site. His film, 18,000 Dead at Gordon Head, juxtaposes Holden’s angst-ridden voiceover with spiraling neighbourhood images, manipulated and conjured, in offering to the dead girl.

Whereas the program began in a place of stasis - an automobile and its driver, frozen in a painful extension of time - we end with a materialist portrayal of cinematic speed.

In Routemaster, the Finnish filmmaker Ilppo Pohjola creates a homage to racing car speed, a merging of the subject with the film material. Routemaster’s sound track uses computer-manipulated electric violin sounds, a rhythmic pulse and noise loops to convey a sense of ever-faster motion, in this apocalyptic, post-structural work.

This series of films, diverse in nature, but all unabashedly alternative, reveals the fact that all is well with fringe film in Canada and abroad. Despite the prevailing industrial driven mechanisms which fuel film funding, and therefore filmmaking, there are still many artists finding means to offer up rarely told tales, exhilarating and inspiring visions and two-bit cine-poems of the everyday.



Program Details

Thursday, August 26, 8:30
Hanover Drive-In Theatre
Drive-in Road (South at Campbell’s Corner), Hanover

Sunday, August 29, 8:30
Owen Sound Twin Drive-In Theatre
Highway 6, Springmount Corner, Owen Sound

Aspiration

12 min. (2003) Quebec

Constant Mentz

A man drives to a secluded beach near a cliff, a hammer his sole passenger, and waits. Aspiration reflects the essence of life, time and film all at once in this philosophical cine-poem.

Twone 1, Twone 2, Twone 3, Twone 4

30 sec. each (1994) Finland

Sami van Ingen

A series of cinema trailers interspersed through the program and based on the Dr. Seuss poem: One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish.

The Film of Her

12 min. (1996) USA

Bill Morrison

The story of the clerk who rediscovers the paper print collection in the vaults of the Library of Congress. The memory of an ancient piece of pornographic footage serves as his muse, as he struggles to save the collection from incineration, and himself from obscurity.

Light is Calling

8 min. (2004) USA

Bill Morrison

Reflections around the volatile nature of life and love, in a film that Morrison rescued from decay and utter oblivion. A chance encounter from James Young’s The Bells (1926) was optically reprinted and edited to Michael Gordon’s seven minute composition. The film is a meditation on the fleeting nature of life and love, as seen through the boiling emulsion of film.

Today

10 min. (1997) Finland

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Today is a chilling (if slightly implausible premise) discussion on the manifestations of guilt. It’s very northern, very stylised presentation allows us to empathise with the lonely girl whose father is destroyed by remorse at killing, accidentally, his own father.

The Happy Three Family (Van Den Heilgen Drien)

16 min. (2003) Belgium

Karen Vanderborght

The Happy Three Family is an experimental family film based on the biblical story of the three kings. We follow the journey of the three wisewomen through digital reinterpretations of medieval paintings of the Flemish Primitives. Walking on Flemish roads, overrun with newly constructed rustic farms and social housing, their path is several times obstructed by hypocrisy, family dramas and gossip. Is there an alternative route left for Mary, Jesus and the three wisewomen?

A Little Life

5 min. (2004) Canada

Elizabeth Murray

The life of a green bottle fly. Hatch, eat, fly, die. Sumptuously filmed!

The Traveling Eye of the Blue Cat

16 min. (2001) Canada

Shawn Atkins

The Travelling Eye of the Blue Cat is a 16 minute, 35mm photo-collage animation. Using a fairytale style, this surreal film combines photo-collage and animation to tell the story of a girl awoken one morning by a mysterious seagull, which crashes against her bedroom window. Following the bird into an abandoned garden, the girl discovers the edge of the world. Perched on this edge is a single tree bearing a tangy red fruit, guarded by raucous birds. When the girl scares off the birds and takes a bite of the fruit she catapults herself into a startling, violent and extended metamorphosis orchestrated by the birds themselves.

18,000 Dead at Gordon Head

13 min. (2004) Canada

Clive Holden

In the summer of 1982, during a visit to the poet/filmmaker’s hometown, Holden witnessed the murder of a teenage girl – killed by a sniper on a quiet, suburban street. He returned a year later to lie with his camera on the spot where she died and to roam the neighbourhood searching for footage. The title of this film comes from the oft-quoted statistic that the average sixteen-year-old has witnessed 18,000 murders on TV and at the movies.

Routemaster - Theatre of the Motors

17 min. (2001) Finland

Ilppo Pohjola

Routemaster is about the cinematic portrayal of speed. It is a homage to racing car speed, a merging of the subject with the film material, and is also about the use of human cadavers in crash tests. The film’s soundtrack uses computer-manipulated electric violin sounds, a rhythmic pulse and noise loops to convey a sense of ever-faster motion. Routemaster uses filmic technique to resemble the physical experience of speed.