Composed of four chapters depicting optical modulations of scenes from a day at the beach, La Plage illustrates Bokanowski’s continued fascination (and experimentation) with the chromic, refractive, and reflective properties of glass to create films that redefine the materiality of celluloid and explore the plasticity of surfaces to transform everyday objects into works of art. The high contrast, blue tinting of the first chapter prefigures the opening sequence of Dolce in its evocation of nocturnal tempest (and perhaps even a glimpse of the forking of waters in Sharunas Bartas’ Few of Us). The second chapter forgoes the darker chromic filters while retaining the film’s high contrast to create a sense of floating otherworldliness to the images, an atmosphere that is further emphasized through a shift in camera framing from people anchored on the foreground (generally near the bottom) of the frame in the previous chapter, to people framed in the middle of the shot, seemingly suspended in the enveloping water between the terrestrial and the celestial. The third chapter introduces variable density optics (where the multiple indices of refraction reside at various sectors within the same lens) into the camera’s line of sight that refract light into visually unexpected transmittive or reflective angles such that organic shapes become angular and compartmentalized into cubist-like organic geometries, and monolithic forms take on an appearance of fluidity and motion. Creating nodal point images that present a differential mapping of “concentrations of matter”, Bokanowski cleverly redefines notions of visibility into relativistic realms of motion and inertia. Lastly, the fourth chapter returns to the chromic filters of earliest chapters. Concluding with a frozen image of a woman and child gazing out to sea that is framed against the warm, red and amber hues of a seeming sunset, the parting shot becomes a reinforcing image of return to innocence and the beauty of simplicity.
Patrick Bokanowski born in 1943, lives and works in Paris. From 1962 to 1966, he studied photography, optics, and chemistry, under the direction of Henri Dimier, a painter and scholar specializing in optical phenomena and perspective systems. Bokanowski’s first true window into the world of cinema was through the animated films of Jean Mutschler and for a long time, animation remained for him a kind of predilection as well as a privileged ground for experimentation. Patrick Bokanowski, wishing to make his images more expressive, and his forms more fluid, collects rounded, blown or hammered shards of glass through which to film. Not being completely satisfied with this result alone, he then, with the help of specialists, manufactures optics and experiments with reflective surfaces, mirrors (both stable and moving), and mercury baths. His use of the technique of reflective mirrors, through which he films a completely distorted reality, is best expressed in his film, At The Edge of… read more