IMAGES: SHOWCASING CONTEMPORARY MOVING IMAGE CULTURE from today (Thursday, April 3) to April 13. www.imagesfestival.com. Rating: NNNN
Kicking off tonight, the 21st Images Festival once again offers Torontonians an all-you-can-eat banquet of bleeding-edge shorts, features, installations and live events.
Oh, yes – there will be multimedia.
The festival reaffirms its hipster cred with a cluster of activity along Queen West. Most screenings will be held at the Joseph Workman Theatre, at Ossington, with the opening-night party and further social happenings at the Gladstone Hotel. Live events are scheduled for Harbourfront, the NFB and the Royal, too.
I’m not even going to try to deliver a comprehensive assessment of the programming, because there’s just no way to do it; the very nature of experimental film and video works resists organization or blanket coverage. Let’s just wade right in, shall we?
I can’t say I’m a fan of the opening-night gala, G.B. Jones’s The Lollipop Generation (Thursday, April 3, 9 pm; Rating: NN), an insistently rebellious mess about teenage runaways doing edgy things like yelling at people and hanging out in front of the old Metro Theatre.
Jones gets cool points for shooting and editing the movie on Super 8, though there are several videotaped inserts, one of which takes up about a quarter of the movie’s running time and is so insistent on its transgressiveness that you want to give it a time out. Come to think of it, I feel that way about the whole movie.
If it’s creativity and inspiration you’re after, check out the collections of international shorts, which boast some really lovely material.
Ben Russell’s Black And White Trypps Number Four (Rating: NNNN) turns a sliver of a Richard Pryor routine – I’m pretty sure it’s from Live In Concert – into a sonic and visual kaleidoscope, strobing and fragmenting the image into incoherence and then retrieving its essence.
Karl Lemiuex’s Western Sunburn (Rating: NNNN) takes similar liberties with 35mm footage from an old western, scratching, splicing and burning a simple loop of cowboys on horseback into a grainy monochrome apocalypse. Both are featured in Shorts II: Ruptures Restructured (Saturday, April 5, 9 pm).
Shorts IV: Within And Without We Continue Along (Sunday, April 6, 7 pm) includes Rosa Barba’s Outwardly From Earth’s Center (Rating: NNNN), a sombre study of the (fictional) Scandinavian island of Goska Sandon, which has somehow detached from its geological moorings and is drifting to its doom. It’s not easy to pull off this sort of poker-faced goof – if just one of your “interview subjects” gets the tone wrong, you’re dead – but Barba manages it very nicely.
Program V: Just Before The Road Ends, There’ll Be Another Road (Monday, April 7, 7 pm) includes three of the best selections I’ve seen. Nina Yuen’s Alison (Rating: NNNN) is a slippery, dreamlike riff on the idea of a vanished girl – abducted, run away or simply disappeared, it’s impossible to know.
A silent work, Penny Lane’s She Used To See Him Most Weekends (Rating: NNNNN) adopts the structure of a child’s storybook, shuffling through illustrations and simple, stark text to tell a moving, deeply resonant story of lost innocence.
And Kim Sheppard’s Here We Are (Rating: NNNNN) reorganizes grainy footage found on YouTube into an eerie echo of itself, with anonymous families chattering and wandering around within a little box on the screen. As the images flow along, they somehow attain a terrible grandeur, as if we’re watching recordings made by the dead.
Blots of ink make you think in Verses.
Program VIII: Three Spaces Of Decay (April 11, 7 pm) features James Sansing’s Verses (Rating: NNNN), which flips through the pages of a water-damaged journal in a glorious, mesmerizing series of high-speed inkblots.
Additional highlights include a Canadian Artist Spotlight on the marvellously distinct Montreal macrovisualist Nelson Henricks (Friday, April 4, 7 pm; Rating: NNNN) and the unique presentation The Valerie Project (Wednesday, April 9, 10 pm), which sets Jaromil Jires’s rarely screened 1970 fantasia Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders to a live orchestral score. The Valerie Project is presented at the Royal under the aegis of the festival’s Live Images series.
Trading The Future wraps up the fest with style.
The closing-night gala, b.h. Yael’s Trading The Future (April 13, 8 pm; Rating: NNN), wraps things up efficiently enough, calmly exploring North America’s unchecked consumption of natural resources through the lens of evangelical end-times theory. Are we not trying hard enough to save the planet, it asks, because Jesus will just show up eventually to rapture us away to heaven?
Considering this continent’s current heads of state and their environmental policies, that’s not a bad question – though it collapses as soon as you acknowledge that plenty of North Americans put no stock whatsoever in the Christian Apocalypse. Yael never gets around to doing that, which is awfully convenient – although, since this is a personal essay rather than a documentary, I guess that’s the artist’s prerogative.