Le Spectacle des Éléments / The Elemental Show

Reframing the Elements through Contemporary French Cinema

In Conjunction with The Providence French Film Festival

Drawn entirely from the impressive collection of Light Cone, a Paris-based distributor of experimental cinema founded in 1982, this program features a set of visually entrancing shorts by members of France’s vibrant experimental film culture exploring cinema’s relationship to the elements.  Though created by independent artists with distinct orientations, all of these works emerge from a cinematic encounter with the substances once held to comprise the fundamental components of the natural world: earth, water, air, & fire.  What happens when this classical subject is engaged through a distinctly modern medium like cinema?  While certain of these artists utilize film to rediscover, harness, or communicate the import attributed to the elements by ancient thought, others offer more timely variations on this theme, refracting it through the lens of contemporary aesthetic developments, modern philosophy, or current cultural and political realities.  From either direction, the films collected in this program provide new ways of conceiving cinema’s relationship to the surrounding world, while also demonstrating that the lure of the elements has not dissipated with the rise of the modern era.


Le Granier (Paysages, Etude No. 1) / Mount Granier (Landscapes, Study No. 1)
Olivier Fouchard, 2007, 35mm, color, silent, 15 min
The eastern cliff of Mount Granier, a mountain in the Savoy region of France, collapsed in the 13th century, killing thousands and drastically modifying the surrounding landscape.  Fouchard’s mesmerizing study alters and abstracts original documentary footage in an effort to evoke “the history of [a tired] mountain populated with incantations” (Emmanuel Lefrant).

Parties Visible et Invisible d’un Ensemble Sous Tension / Visible and Invisible Parts of a Set Under Tension
Emmanuel Lefrant, 2009, 35mm, color, sound, 7 min
In 2003, Lefrant shot an image of an African landscape and buried another film strip underground in the same location, allowing the emulsion to erode and degrade.  The individual products of this twinned dialogue between film and earth were then fused together through processes of double exposure and bi-packing in an effort to reveal the “bipolar” logic of a world “where invisible takes shape with the visible, where the first dissolves itself into the second and vice versa” (EL).

K (Berbères) / K (Berberians)
Frédérique Devaux, 2007, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min
The sixth piece of an experimental biography of the Kabylie region of Algeria made by this French-Algerian artist, “K (Berbères)” concerns “berberian people dreaming to go far away and wanting at the same time to stay on their land, so poor land” (Light Cone).

Mer / Sea
Martine Rousset, 2003, 16mm, color, sound, 20 min
“The mediterranean sea . this one. the sun ./writings on the water ?/the violent sound of the wind’s waves ./the wild voice of the water’s writings ./a few childish fictions in the water’s writings , certainly very cruel ,/games of war ./lost language ./sovereign childhood ./the sea is the winner .” –MR

Jardin du Sel / Salt Garden
Rose Lowder, 2011, 16mm, color, sound, 16 min
A beautiful depiction of the concentration-saturation process involved in the production of sea salt crystals (or “flowers,” as they are called), which moves through poetic compositions based on the sun, the wind, and the sea, before bringing us back to land.  “I don’t want a docile subject. When everything is under control, it’s dead. My filming processes are set up as a dialogue with reality.” –RL

Juste Avant Midi / Just Before Noon
Pascal Auger, 1986, 16mm, color, sound, 7min
A student and collaborator of Gilles Deleuze, Auger made “Juste Avant Midi” on a particularly windy Wednesday morning in an otherwise quiet seaside town.  According to Prosper Hillairet, Auger’s interest in such peripheral places (beaches, islands, suburbs) stems from an effort to escape the “gravity of centers, monuments, and bodies… [and open] the present to other temporalities that contain the past and anticipate the future.  The sky, the sea, and – in ‘Just Before Noon’ – the wind, are the elements of this opening; they offer and open themselves to cinema through their instability, their circle of influence, and cinema opens itself to them by its own specific movement and rhythms.”

D’un Couvre-feu / About a Curfew
Yann Beauvais, 2006, video, color, sound, 10 min
In October 2005, Paris went up in flames.  After two teenagers of North African descent died while attempting to evade police harassment, riots erupted in Paris’s suburbs before spreading to 274 towns throughout France and beyond, and nearly 9000 cars were reportedly torched in the process.  In Beauvais’s video, riot footage is actively “redistributed” (YB) to bring the economic, ethnic, and generational conflicts subtending contemporary French culture to the surface.

Battements Solaires / Solar Beats
Patrick Bokanowski, 2008, 35mm, color, sound, 19 min
Over a constantly modulating, atmospheric backdrop of rushing water and exploding fireworks, Bokanowski creates mysterious scenes that straddle the boundary between the unsettling and the utopian.  “My motivation is to create images I’ve never seen before… imagery that verges on the unknown.” –PB