Tony Romano at Diaz Contemporary (100 Niagara), to March 18. 416-361-2972. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Tony Romano is a young Toronto video artist who messes with established notions of cinema.
Taking on the assumptions about self, time and experience that drive conventional narrative, he wittily explores what happens when elements of a story are transferred into a different context. His Three Tales are short videos that are puzzling, mesmerizing or just plain hilarious.
The Lost Rose is based on a fairy tale told within the play Wozzeck by Georg Büchner, about a woman abandoned by her parents who must wander the earth. Romano's camera steadily follows her red dress through a forest. Beautifully shot and projected on either side of a wall at staggered times, the piece refutes strict notions of continuity while the larger context of the surrounding play is also left mysterious.
Romano leaves us with an endlessly repeating dreamlike middle, taken from a story within a story, that could have any number of possible beginnings and endings.
The Last Act, the funniest work on view, is a direct transcription of a found pornographic film, which Romano produces and shoots with deadpan seriousness.
Refilming a pornographic movie script with NFB earnestness makes for some entertainingly stilted acting, as local actors strain to deliver cheesy lines in scenes where carefully moderated aesthetics seem wildly out of place.
Without the sex scenes, Romano's script is robbed of its only intention, creating a cruel joke of a film that works against itself as it unfolds.
The Fisherman And His Soul is Romano's most conceptual work, a sound-and-light installation derived from Oscar Wilde's fairy tale about a fisher who abandons his soul in order to win the love of a mermaid. The monotone duet for guitar and two voices - with projected lights that offer the merest suggestion of ocean waves - leans toward preciousness and fails to communicate as strongly as the show's other two pieces.
Romano's work is strongest when he's funny, slyly subverting narrative and challenging us to re-examine preconceived notions of storytelling.