What follows is the Toronto International Film Festival's announcement of the lineup for Wavelengths, its avant-garde program. To reiterate, the text comes from the festival, which runs from September 9 through 18. See, too, the lineups for Visions, Contemporary World Cinema, Future Projections and the Galas and Special Presentations.
Wavelengths 1: Analogue Arcadia. As celluloid threatens to disappear altogether, Wavelengths launches with a celebratory and elegiac program comprised of doomed desire, vanishing worlds and a love of analogue. Wavelengths launches with a rare screening of Tacita Dean's Edwin Parker (USA/United Kingdom — courtesy of the Marion Goodman Gallery), an intimate portrait of Cy Twombly, one of the great artistic geniuses of the past century. The film's inclusion in the Festival has been exclusively made possible in honour of Twombly, who died on July 5. Dean is a vociferous defender of the threatened medium of 16mm. Her latest subject was a notoriously private titan whose work of deep emotional beauty, doomed desire and Arcadian abstraction remained impervious to shifting tastes. Edwin Parker (Twombly's birth name) builds textures from the man himself and his crammed storefront studio in Lexington, Virginia. As a prelude, we offer Nick Collins's Loutra/Baths (United Kingdom), a painterly study of an ancient Roman bath surrounded by a lush olive grove in Loutra, Arcadia. Emptiness is wistfully transformed in Sophie Michael's 99 Clerkenwell Road (United Kingdom) as the remnants of an empty shop provide the makings of an abstract light film-cum-toy solar system. Similarly beguiling is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Empire (Thailand/Austria), whose bobbing underwater creature leads us down a tawny, mysterious path. Sack Barrow (United Kingdom), the latest sulphurous short by Ben Rivers and winner of the prestigious Baloise Art Prize, is a portrait of a London suburb plating factory established in 1931 for limbless and disabled war veterans. Documenting a vanished world, the film's decelerated rhythm and focus on surface – from chemical aggregate to nostalgia-era pin-up girls – lends a portentous feel [In March, Rivers discussed Slow Action at Picture This.] A conquistador counts his blessings in Raya Martin's Ars Colonia (The Philippines/The Netherlands), a hand-coloured effigy shot on hi-8 analogue video, transferred to 35mm. [Click the title to see it; it was the Video of the Day on July 22.] Lastly, Joshua Bonnetta's American Colour (USA/ Canada), was shot on old rolls of 16mm Kodachrome during a pilgrimage from the stock's birthplace in upstate New York to Houston, where its final rolls were processed earlier this year. Like a postscript to Dean's Kodak, American Colour explores Kodachrome's historic use and singular hues, doing so with digital means in the wake of its obsolescence.
Wavelengths 2: Twenty Cigarettes. In James Benning's Twenty Cigarettes (USA) [see Neil Young's review], a pack of twenty cigarettes is consumed by twenty different smokers – friends and acquaintances from Montreal to Seoul. Ostensibly a film about duration, Twenty Cigarettes is structured around the time it takes to smoke a cigarette, and we observe the subjects from the moment they light up until they butt out, with a few surprises along the way. These living, smoking people offer glimpses into their lives as Benning records them amid familiar surroundings. While each background offers clues to their respective stories, it is their distinct relationships with the camera, their faces and their gazes, that make this film so compelling. The film includes fellow avant-garde icons Thom Andersen (whose Get out of the Car was featured in last year's Wavelengths program), looking bored and slightly enervated, and photographer/filmmaker Sharon Lockhart cast as a wistful western settler amid an open blue sky.
Wavelengths 3: Serial Rhythms. With serial rhythms, a sinewy exchange between opposites and increasing intensity, this program builds to a propulsive, ever-sharpening sense of the present. From a Russian documentary to moiré patterns, these works serve to heighten our viewing experience. Adriana Salazar Arroyo's Found Cuban Mounts (Costa Rica/Germany) uses excerpts from Fidel Castro's “History Will Absolve Me” speech to determine her film's rhythm, tracking in reverse the journey of the revolutionaries. Filmed in grisaille with a sober eye, Alina Rudnitskaya's I Will Forget This Day (Russia) is a wrenching portrait of waiting young women, whose decisions are not always willfully made. John Price's Sea Series #10 (Canada) hovers at the brink of widescreen extinction as it ruminates on the recent disaster in Japan. Joyce Wieland's Sailboat (Canada) is a playful yet vaguely ominous haiku. Rose Lowder's ongoing Bouquets series is among the major works of the past two decades. Filmed at various European ecological sites, Bouquets 11-20 (France) vibrate with splendour inherent to the pleasure-pull of nature's imperiled state. Shot along the Bosphoros, Jonathan Schwartz's frenetic A Preface to Red's (USA) dense, field-recorded soundtrack colludes with the beauty of the images to overwhelm. Vibrating frequencies emerge in a freshly blown-up 16mm print of Resonance (USA) by Super 8 filmmaker Karen Johannesen, who summons flickering force fields. The latest triptych in T. Marie's Optra Field series, Optra Field VII-IX (USA) focus on the diagonal grid are investigations into our own perception of perceiving. Kevin Jerome Everson's car-crushing Chevelle is a straight-up account of two GM cars put down to rest. Shot in Cookstown, Ontario, Chevelle (Canada/USA) embodies a working-class ethos while suggesting scrap metal's potential to be art.
Wavelengths 4: Space is the Place. The disparate works in this program expand spatial possibility through a consideration of inner and outer spaces, of varying cartographies and aesthetic patterns. Chris Kennedy's 349 (for Sol LeWitt) (Canada) is a digitally animated version of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #349, which was commissioned by Toronto's Mercer Union gallery in 1981. Recreating LeWitt's geometric vocabulary and primary colour palette, 349 careens through emblazoned emblems, lifted from walls and transported into dialogue with LeWitt's exploration of spatial systems and human emotion. A black mirror mounted to a motion control machine trawls the Dutch Landscape and Genre Scenes painting rooms at the National Gallery in London as camera and mirror partake in a three-way play of representation in Mark Lewis's latest transfixing investigation into cinematic technique and pictorial composition, Black Mirror at the National Gallery (Canada, United Kingdom). A chasm between what we hear and see in Neil Beloufa's kaleidoscopic Untitled (France) echoes the fabrication of its ink-jet mise en scène. Space is the Place (Japan) is the latest video animation by Eriko Sonoda, whose meticulous lo-fi explorations of flattened space use sheets of paper to transcend finitude. A corner wall in the artist's room is transmuted through a staccato of origami exchanges. Ute Aurand's Young Pines (Germany) is a portrait of Japan rendered with formal acuity and a capacious curiosity. The beauty and grace of its culture – from calligraphy to ikebana – are matched by the awesome power of its land and seascapes, which oscillate, in a post-tsunami imagination, between time and place. From the Japanese countryside, we travel to rural Australia along Coorow-Latham Road (Canada). In a radical recasting of the long take, Blake Williams reconstructs the eponymous route using Google Street View, producing a vapourous road movie in which our perspective gradually shifts. Both elegant and visceral, it is an internet-sourced work of structuralist cinema.
Wavelengths 5: The Return/Aberration of Light. Wavelengths concludes with two vastly different cinematic experiences that collectively affirm film's status as one of today's most exciting art forms, unyielding and wondrously alive in face of increasing obsolescence. Nathaniel Dorsky's The Return (USA) is shot on 16mm and projected at silent speed (18 fps). Dorsky delves deep into multiple (under)worlds, sometimes uncanny and surreal, reflected and refracted through various natural and man-made obfuscations like grids, glass, water and brush. From its wintry willow branches to wafting hand gestures in a café, The Return harbours a phantasmal feel, offering a sentient, sometimes dark rumination on the mysteries that await us. From the resonant silence of The Return, we segue to transfixing audiovisual immersion in Aberration of Light: Dark Chamber Disclosure (USA), the second collaborative live cinema project by Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder and Olivia Block. For the past decade, Gibson and Recoder have created performances and installations that employ the mechanics and optical properties of film projection to forge hypnotic, sculptural works of light. Using a series of film loops, crystals and manual gestures to bend, reflect and refract the projector's beam, the artists recast the theatrical space of the cinema into a three-dimensional encounter. Aberration of Light: Dark Chamber Disclosure was developed specifically with Block, who mixes and improvises field recordings and live instrumentation, and is presented in conjunction with the Wavelength Music series, one of Toronto's longest-running and most influential underground music forums.
Image: The Return. If you're headed to Toronto, tiffr is a simple yet powerful way to schedule your festival. Earlier: Previously announced titles for TIFF 2011. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.