Paysages lointains, paysages proches

The French Show, Pt II

Curated by Erika Balsom

In Conjunction with Providence French Film Festival

After the international success of “La Lanterne magique” (2005’s Gallic kino-gala), vos amis at Magic Lantern are back in cahoots with the tenth annual Providence French Film Festival to bring you “Paysages lointains, paysages proches” (that’s “Landscapes Near and Far,” for you non-French speakers out there). The seven francophone films featured in this remarkably diverse program share an increasingly global concern with Travel and States of Passage, in which the juxtaposition of multiple spaces (physical, emotional)  is metaphorically linked to the act of editing itself.  Don’t worry about printing out your boarding pass, for that five-dollar bill is the only ticket you’ll need – through intense flickers of light and sustained long takes, this program will take to you New York, Chicago, Avignon, Visegrad, Beijing and Beyond, all the while posing these increasingly pertinent questions: Qu’est-ce qui se divise ici de là? Comment le passé peut-il faire partie du présent?  Comprenez-vous? No?  Don’t worry, you will…

Featuring: Jours en fleurs by Louise Bourque (4:30, 35mm, 2003), Un Pont sur la Drina by Xavier Lukomski (17:00, 35mm, 2005), Surface Tension #2 by Vincent Grenier (4:30, 16mm, 1995), Au bord du lac by Patrick Bokanowski (6:00, 16mm, 1994), Scènes de la vie française: Avignon by Rose Lowder (11:00, 16mm, 1986), Sans titre Beijing by Yann Beauvais (5:00, video, 2006), Jean Genet in Chicago by Frederic Moffet (26:00, video, 2006)

TRT 74:00


Jours en fleurs by Louise Bourque (4:30, 35mm, 2003) “The title is based on an expression from my coming of age in Acadian French Canada where girls would refer to having their menstrual periods as “être dans ses fleurs.” As a result of incubation in menstrual blood for several months, the original images inscribed on the emulsion undergo violent alterations. The shedding of the unfertilized womb depredates the fertilized blossoms and substitutes its own dark beauty.” –Louise Bourque

Un Pont sur la Drina by Xavier Lukomski (17:00, 35mm, 2005) This moving film takes its title from Nobel Prize-winning Ivo Andric’s novel, in which the bridge comes to signify the centuries-old conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the region. Set in the city of Visegrad in eastern Bosnia, a region largely forgotten in the western media’s coverage of the war and yet the site of unspeakable horror, the film is engaged in providing an opportunity to bear witness to atrocity and yet insists on the incapacity of language to ever fully convey the events themselves. Underlining the spectrality of place, Un Pont sur le Drina pairs its images with a soundtrack culled from trial testimony in the Hague to insist on the ways in which past haunts present landscapes.

Surface Tension #2 by Vincent Grenier (4:30, 16mm, 1995) A city film, shot in lower Manhattan in the 1980s. Here, Grenier uses the early twentieth century additive color process of Kinemacolor, which photographed and projected black and white film through alternating red and green filters to make it the first successful cinema color process. Surface Tension #2 does not faithfully reproduce the Kinemacolor process, though, but instead makes visible the individual red and green tinted frames that would produce the coloured image. Like Lowder, Grenier here reflects on the single frame articulation in relation to glimpses of a landscape, questioning at once the filmmaker’s relation to place and his relation to the medium itself.

Au Bord du lac by Patrick Bokanowski (6:00, 16mm, 1994) “Bokanowski returns to the complex—and mind-bending—optical array of pinholes, mirrors, prisms, and refractive substrates of his earlier film, La Plage to create the whimsical and playful Au bord du lac. The film is composed of mundane, everyday scenes of recreation and leisure on an idyllic, sunny day at a park that overlooks a lake …shot through optical distortions to create fractured and knotted images that resemble embellished, gothic fairytale illustrations or appear to resolve into morphing, geometric patterns of fluid motion. Evoking the vibrant colors and sun-soaked palette of an invigorated Vincent van Gogh in Arles, Bokanowski transforms the quotidian into an infinitely mesmerizing dynamic kaleidoscope of shape-shifting textures and self-reconstituting objects of organic, abstract art.” –

Scènes de la vie française: Avignon by Rose Lowder (11:00, 16mm, 1986) Lowder’s series of scenes from French life rest on an interrogation of the single frame as the minimal unit of cinema. In this instalment, the city of Avignon becomes the site of an attempt to examine the persistence of landscape through the passage of time—a theme shared with Un Pont sur le Drina, despite the films’ radically varying means. In opposition to the long take continuity of Lukomski’s film, Lowder constructs a flickering meditation of what passes and what remains, inviting the viewer probe for fleeting details in the midst of an intense condensation of time.

Sans titre Beijing by Yann Beauvais (5:00, video, 2006) “In this ongoing untitled series, Beauvais visits Beijing in early December and discovers an army has taken over Tiananmen Square, beating, scratching, and breaking up the snow and ice that remain after a snow storm. The task is difficult, the cacophony great. The work is not overwhelmingly effective but by sheer numbers and perseverance the ice is removed. We are drawn not so much to the efficiency of the gestures but the domestication of the bodies which oppress, evoking other more chilling memories.” – Harvard Film Archive

Jean Genet in Chicago by Frederic Moffet (26:00, video, 2006) This award-winning video uses Genet’s trips to America as a way to interrogate the events surrounding the 1968 National Democratic Convention. Genet’s cross-cultural reception of political conflict is mirrored by Moffet’s own position as a Québecois filmmaker working in Chicago. This doubling of Genet and Moffet is reinforced by the mirroring of our present with the failure of 1968; one has the sense that the present day looms constantly as a silent interlocutor in this collage of new and archival footage. Questions of reenactment and the role of video in the constitution of collective memory figure heavily, as does the link between sexuality and politics.