2012 Images Festival
Toronto. April 12-21, 2012.
So — this year, I'm going to be leaping in to the Images Festival, Toronto's celebration of "experimental and independent moving image culture". I'm admittedly no expert, but going through the listings, here's some of the offerings that intrigue me the most.
Admittedly, I'm a bit more comfortable in advocating things on stage than on screen, let's start with some of this year's bumper crop of musical offerings.
Live Images - Lucky Dragons + Tristan Perich + Lesley Flanigan + Abstract Random
Friday, April 13. Images at 204 (204 Spadina Av.)
The Wavelength Music Series — itself named after a seminal work of local experimental film — has long collaborated with Images, including last year's presentation of Fucked Up soundtracking silent film West of Zanzibar. But with WL's Jonny Dovercourt now in the Images fold, that has kicked up a notch, and the Wavelength crew are taking full advantage of Images at 204, the festival's pop-up hub.
The kick-off party on Friday (April 13) does a nice job of melding together a lot of "experimental" and visual elements alongside the music. Headliners Lucky Dragons are constantly finding new generative principles to include the audience in their music-making process — completely magical when it works well. Tristan Perich and Lesley Flanigan are also bringing new means of electronic music production, for what sounds like an immersive experience.1 And Abstract Random bring enormous energy and positivity in pushing hip-hop forward toward a bolder frontier.2
Live Images - The Third Man by Erik Bünger (plus Steve Kado and Jodie Mack)
Wednesday, April 18. Images at 204 (204 Spadina Av.)
It's been a while since I've heard a rant from Steve Kado, so his appearance here (examining "the question of why the moving image has remained essentially unchanged since its introduction in the late 19th century") should be some interesting combination of awkward and though-provoking. He'll be presenting before the main event, where Erik Bünger "provides a narrative journey through the haunting and infectious character of popular music and its effect on the contemporary psyche". I'm not entirely sure what that's going to entail, but given that it's jumping-off point is The Third Man, I'm hoping it involves zither.
Live Images - Yo La Tengo presents: The Sounds of Science
Saturday, April 21. Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Av.)
A true treat to close out the festival, with the seminal American rock trio performing a live score to Jean Painlevé's classic avant-garde underwater cinematography. Eschewing pop structure for watery flow, the band's music is ambient but never alienating.
As a magnificent bonus, Chris Cummings (who knows a thing or two about experimental cinema) will open the night in the guise of tuxedo-clad crooner Mantler. A not-to-be-missed show.
To be honest, I really think one method here is simply to look in your datebook, see which evening you're free, and head down to Jackman Hall at the AGO. Get non-linear with it! Full screen listings are here — but these are some of the screenings that I'm going to try and get down to.
The Nine Muses Dir: John Akomfrah (2011, 94 min, HDCAM, UK)
The Royal, April 12, 6:45pm
The opening night selection sounds like a non-narrative essay film more than a traditional documentary, using sonic collage and static images instead of narrative structure to investigate the idea of "immigration."
As Afterwards the Image Still Rings [shorts programme]
Jackman Hall, April 14, 5:00pm
Pure visual experimentalism, like Björn Kämmerer's Turret ("a widescreen rotating arrangement of undulating vertical lines") or Lucy Raven's 10Hz ("composed of projection test patterns and calibration charts"). This is the stuff that a lot of people associate with experimental cinema, so why not embrace it? Lean back, slow your brain down, and try to perceive. All things told, any one of the several shorts programmes is arguably a good way to get your feet wet.
The Observers Dir: Jacqueline Goss (2011, 67 min, Video, USA)
Jackman Hall, April 14, 7:30pm
El árbol de las fresas (The Strawberry Tree) Dir: Simone Rapisarda Casanova (2011, 71 min, Video, Canada)
Jackman Hall, April 20, 7:00pm
Two films that both appear to toy with the conventions of documentary convention, simultaneously telling their subjects' stories while problematizing for us, as viewers, the nature of that presentation. The Observers "skirt[s] the border between the real and the re-enacted" at Mount Washington Weather Observatory, while in The Strawberry Tree "the subjects often address the camera directly and even tease the filmmaker", subverting the very idea of the passive, observed subject.
Two Years at Sea Dir: Ben Rivers (2012, 86 min, 35mm, UK)
Jackman Hall, April 15, 9:00pm
This one looks to be immersive while simultaneously calling attention to its own means of production, with hand processed 16mm footage blown up to 35mm, creating "a grainy uneven shimmering quality": a texture meant to embody the landscape it's presenting.
1 And of the outside-the-theatre programming, I'm hoping to get down to see Tristan Perich's "Microtonal Wall" (at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, 9 Ossington Av.), with 1,500 miniature speakers each emitting a unique note.
2 The Wavelength crew will also be taking over the venue on Friday, April 27th for a spectacle of weird pop including Kontravoid, Rat Tail, Mausoleum & Sexy Merlin.