Jan 22, 2021

Luminous Motion (Bette Gordon, 1998)

"Sometimes it's very hard to tell the difference between your conception of the world and the world's conception of you."

Surrounded by an aura of dreamy otherworldliness or rather, magnetic mysteriousness, Deborah Kara Unger portrays Margaret - a free-spirited hustler of a mom to a ten-year-old boy, Phillip (Eric Lloyd), whose cuteness is matched by his brainpower and interest for natural science, particularly chemistry, and exceeded by burgeoning psychopathy. Together, this 'chemotropic' duo travels across the States, swindling their way to make ends meet, until a small accident settles them in the modest home of a kind carpenter and hardware store owner nicknamed Pedro (Terry Kinney). A possibility of idyllic life is undermined by Philip's ever-growing Oedipal complex and the appearance of his father who may or may not be a figment of the kid's imagination...

Narrated from an unreliable perspective of a morally disoriented child (I know my memory's hopelessly flawed and entangled with my imagination, he says at the beginning), Luminous Motion initially appears like a happy-go-lucky road-movie about a couple of sympathetic crooks, only to take a dark turn into a weirdly comical and increasingly surreal psychological drama. Part off-kilter coming-of-age / becoming-of-offender story, and part wickedly poetic exploration of dysfunctional mother-son dynamics, the film sees Bette Gordon's directorial rapier pointed against the patriarchal oppression, with her central female character gradually sliding down the slope of despair. Applying archetypes to three men closest to Margaret - a wayward offspring, stable boyfriend and ex-husband - she keeps subverting their reality until the viewer loses track of when and where the twisted fairy tale comes into play, and what actually happened.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter that we're left bewildered by Gordon's mind-games, because she pulls us into a singular cinematic universe in which a highly atmospheric, predominantly trip-hoppy score composed by Lesley Barber finds a flawless counterpart in captivating imagery of saturated colors often popping out of the screen (many kudos to cinematographer Teodoro Maniaci, as well as to Lisa Albin and Paul Avery for slick production design and art direction, respectively). On top of that, the mesmerizing, hyper-stylized aesthetics go hand in hand with Phillip's distorted and to a certain extent, damaged picture of his childhood, making heavy themes easier to process, yet strangely poignant and illuminating.

Jan 21, 2021

Rinse: Repeat (Shelly Kamiel, 2018)

“This is so EFS!” – loudly I thought to myself the moment I saw the autrice in a glistening party dress lying on the floor, blood dripping from her mouth, seconds after a flickering shot of a deliciously kitschy bedroom and a close-up of her fishnet tights. The great majority of subsequent scenes proved to be pretty much in line with cine-twisting aspirations of Experimental Film Society, yet there was something utterly idiosyncratic about the cheeky clash between two distinct realities / aesthetic approaches – a glaring phantasmagorical and a docu-like, down-to-earth one.

Shelly (Sarah) Kamiel – “the neon shaman whose deep vision enchantments are as revelatory as leopard feathers” – joined the ranks of EFS towards the end of 2019, and “has inadvertently become their best kept secret”, in the words of Maximilian Le Cain. The first (and if you ask this writer, most accomplished) part of her short films trilogy complemented by Blood in the Butter (2019) and Supernova Cash Out (2020), Rinse: Repeat sees a mysterious heroine portrayed by Kamiel herself transcending the banalities of the mundane (and even death!) by virtue of magical goo, cunning editing and one of the most glamorous, self-ironizing suicide acts ever depicted in experimental cinema. Simultaneously dark, wryly humorous and as light as a dove’s kiss, this mind-boggling mutant-fantasy feels like walking across the ruins of Maximilian Le Cain’s “meditation on the haunting malleability of forgotten sounds and images”, possessed by the spirit of a frisky carny, and guided by Rouzbeh Rashidi’s perverse obsessions and fetishistic adoration of intense colors and shimmering lights. Add to that a slimy substance with metamorphic properties to be used in a rebirth ritual, and you’re in for a time-and-space-dissolving plunge into the rabbit hole, as daily objects swirl around you to the rhapsodic cacophony of Zach de Sorbo’s music.

An elaborate essay on Kamiel’s work written by Maximilian Le Cain can be read in the book Luminous Void: Twenty Years of Experimental Film Society which can be ordered HERE.

Jan 20, 2021

Red Moon Tide (Lois Patiño, 2020)

"The monster is the sea. It has been sleeping for centuries. We are its dream... The monster is the Moon. It devours time." 

After a sailor, Rubio, disappears at the sea, while trying to prove his hypothesis that a monster is haunting the shores, his village is struck with a mysterious malaise - all the inhabitants fall into a catatonic-like state. Neither dead nor alive, they sit or stand at rocks, amidst a grove and a flooded field, inside an inactive dam or their modestly furnished homes, their gazes transfixed on the Unknown (or the abyss of their own creation?). As they sink deeper into Oblivion, ruminating on Rubio's fate through sparse internal monologues, a trio of witches appears out of nowhere. These women are their last hope, but it soon becomes evident that even they are powerless against the higher, cosmic forces at play...

Evoking ancient myths and fairy tales, Lovecraftian dread, Hopperesque melancholy and Tarkovskian poeticism, Lois Patiño's sophomore feature submerges the viewer in disquieting stillness, and demands considerable amount of patience with its decidedly lethargic pacing, inert, equivocal narrative and motionless, mannequin-like characters. Pervaded by silence subtly pierced by diegetic sounds, brooding voice-overs and muffled wailing of underwater darkness, Red Moon Tide (originally, Lúa vermella) is brimful of picturesque, stunningly beautiful visuals possessing a hypnotic, dreamlike quality. Patiño makes the most of natural light, and imbues shadows with a foreboding sense of impending or rather, inevitable doom. When it moves, his camera gently caresses everything its eye captures, alchemically transmuting each shot into a delicately imposing painting, especially in the final act of red-tinged, cataclysmic grandeur. In those tumultuous, nightmarish and cathartic moments, the author decides to reveal a much speculated 'Leviathan' - the sublime embodiment of both our anxieties and monstrosities...

An impressive milestone in Patiño's career and an irrefutable proof of the filmmaker's talent, Red Moon Tide is also a shining example of slow cinema, transcendental in its fantastical gloominess.

Jan 17, 2021

The Golden Mask (Atoosa Pour Hosseini, 2020)

There is a strong and strange connection between the found and original footage in Atoosa Pour Hosseini's latest film. If the former is viewed as an artifact of the past and the latter belongs to 'now', then it is highly probable that their uncanny, symbiotic mutuality is a blurred reflection of the future, at once intimidating and alluring in its foreboding stillness. Time transforms into timelessness, with eternity embedded into the titular object that may originate inside of Luminous Void or an alternate reality.

The mask is not only 'one of civilization's most ancient and potent objects', as noted in the official synopsis, it is also a recurring motif in the voluminous filmography of Experimental Film Society, Rouzbeh Rashidi's HSP: There Is No Escape from the Terrors of the Mind and Maximilian Le Cain's Moon Tiger Movie (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4) being just a couple of examples. A golden, expressionless and somewhat creepy piece is worn by an unnamed wanderer - the author's alter ego or embodiment of her subconscious mind - whose spatial, temporal and psychological disorientation widely open door to our uncertainty. (Are we stuck in Maya Deren's or Jean Rollin's universe?) 

Intensifying the disquieting vagueness which permeates the thick atmosphere are 'magisterial yet marginal figures' clad in black and seemingly as lost as the enigmatic protagonist, amongst the ruins of a decaying world. Maybe they are nothing but ghosts, apparitions of life refusing to vanish entirely, just like a passing train and a few cars glimpsed from the bridge. But who are those people staring into what appears to be an aquarium, and circus acrobats skillfully balancing on Pilates balls? Are they, simply put, memories that belong to the masked wanderer, or expressions of Pour Hosseini's thoughts on film as a medium operating as hints for unmasking the mystery?

Whether any answers can be provided or not, The Golden Mask will always remain a hauntingly beautiful paragon of post-sci-fi cinema, its elliptical, wistfully meandering narrative deeply imprinted in the stark fusion of dreamily evocative, intuitively edited Super 8 imagery and eerily brooding aural emissions, both familiar and unknown...

Jan 14, 2021

Zenith in π Madness

 Zenith in π Madness

Oh, sweet Silence, I walk thee
In the trousers of rain checkered lust
And the pooch spills on the floor
Every single smile for the killers of
Mid-day and walls closed around

When the leeches bark above
The Lake of Wherever You End Up
My honest yellow belly whipped cream
A dead dream absorbs their hatred
Isn’t that the wonder of being born

Everything in the rainbows of our mists
Exists on the same oak stake in bloom
The rulers burn, they burn serendipitously
Under the clouds of ever-changing
Delusions open-minded and sick

Wait (for) me, Maio Dutee!

Mr Mindfucker's Magical Metamorphosis
(March, 2019)

Jan 11, 2021

Gemini: Axioma Lucis / Mortis

To your health this glass of poison I drink
And I sink and I sink and I sink
Into a sea of tranquility
Into a dream of
memory
6

(original size: 40x50cm / 300dpi)

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Jan 7, 2021

Aviva (Boaz Yakin, 2020)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Wow! I’m head over heels for this film!

A boy, Eden, meets a girl, Aviva, online, then she buys a ticket, and moves from Paris to New York where he lives, their relationship blooms into a tumultuous marriage, and eventually, they become best friends. However, there’s a twist somewhat reminiscent of Luis Buñuel’s acclaimed dramedy That Obscure Object of Desire. Each of the two is portrayed by male and female dancer, with both of their sides often sharing the same space which tends to be confusing in the most amusing way possible, particularly during the squabbles! And when they get entangled with other people, their one-night stands turn into sultry bisexual threesomes... Oh, and did I mention that the fourth wall is left in shambles?

Following a peculiar, genre-bending coming-out-and-of-age horror-mystery Boarding School, Boaz Akin’s latest offering appears like a huge leap in the author’s artistic evolution; something akin to a pleasant and electrifying meta-cinematic shock. His unique, unapologetically erotic gender-swapping ‘game’ is imbued with a powerful magic stemming from neo-surrealistic flourishes, a fluid, intimate camerawork, sparkling chemistry between non-professional actors and instantly captivating choreography by Bobbi Jene Smith who also grand jetés into the role of Eden’s femme-persona. Uninhibited in their bold performances, skilled and talented dancers of multi-ethnic origin join in a ravishing, titillating, hyper-kinetic celebration of life, love, self-actualization and the beauty of naked bodies. Liberating and invigorating even in the (sparse) moments of intense melancholy, Aviva is an off-kilter musical de- and reconstructed into an unruly, yet endlessly sympathetic beast of a film. To paraphrase a line by the masculine version of Eden (Tyler Phillips, who looks as if fathered by Michael Paré), ‘fuck consistency and tone, they did it’.