"Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine", Austria, 2005, Directed by Peter Tscherkassky
I was not too impressed with this film. The beginning was somewhat intriguing mostly because I wasn't sure what was going on. An overexposed shot shows an old man drawing what looks to be some sort of looking glass up to his eye and peers through. Words like "head", "tail" and "survive" are spliced between the scenes upside-down and at odd angles. The film was really audio-visually abrasive and dragged on for way too long. I didn't detect any meaning really. It seemed just like some kids messing around in an AV lab.
"High Plains Winter", U.S.A., 2005, Directed by Cindy Stillwell
The film centers around ski-joring competitions in Montana and Idaho, showing the good and bad aspects of the sport. However, the real substance of it, I think, is the shots of desolate unpopulated tundra, stoic and snow-covered ountain ranges and herds of cattle marching across barren snow-deserts. Stillwells shots mirror each other, communicating a feeling of sameness and isolation. Some of my favorite shots were of electrical towers, their angular geometric shapes and enormous stature contrasting sharply with the flat Idaho and Montana landscapes. Stillwell pairs these with images of electrocuted birds hanging from the wires connecting steel giants. This film seems to say a lot through what it leaves out (there's no dialogue, and no commentary on the images). I liked her technique of placing two separate frames of similar images next to each other and scanning the shots so that they seem to approach a common point from opposite directions. This creates the effect of mountains being swallowed up into each other at the place where the frames meet.
"Quimera", Brazil, 2005, Directed by Eryk Rocha
Sequences of jump shot show cats walking down a street, close-ups of their eyes as a car approaches, a man shaving himself and shaving a cat, and blurry headlights drawing nearer. There is a sort of menacing tone and it's sort of implied that someone is perhaps mistreating the cats or that they are about to get run over in some shots. Still, you don't really know what's going on - it's like fragments of a story but you don't have enough to make it complete. Nonetheless it makes more sense than "Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine". It also had more of an artistic feel.
"Viscera", U.S.A., 2005, Leighton Peirce
Memories translate into blurry and disjointed images. Sounds are in disconnected clips. Very artsy but somewhat unremarkable. An examination of how sensory perceptions become ingrained in our memories.
"True North", United Kingdom, 2005, Directed by Isaac Julien
This was the only one with an actual plot. The film's story is based loosely upon the experience of Matthew Henson, who traveled to the Arctic with Robert E. Peary in 1909. He is supposed to have been the first man to reach the North Pole, but this was disputed at the time because he was African American.
Voiceovers from "The Negro Who Traveled to the Pole with Peary" are inserted throughout; the sincere tone of the text complements the intensity of the film. Julien uses a handheld camera to create an uneasy and slightly threatening feeling at times. Out of focus shots convey a cloudy-headedness, as if the cold, undernourishment, and weariness of the traveler were getting to her head. Shots jump from the protagonist to what looks to be thousands of pounds of falling ice-water illustrate the frailty of human life and the odds that one is up against in the icy abyss. It's man pitched against nature at its most extreme.
The text adds a morbid beauty, discussing the glory of death in a place like this and examining what it means to commune with or be part of something greater than oneself and how one defines their orientation to the world, the universe, God.
Though Julien uses varied mediums, every aspect of this film blends well together.
"Las Vegas", Italy, 2005, Directed by Olivo Barbieri
The director used a tilt-and-slide lens effect to make real images of Las Vegas look like a model. He said this was to mimic the skewed and superficial perceptions of the place (its backwards morals and representations of monuments in places half-way around the world, deifying celebrity and wealth, etc.). It seemed a lot more interesting when he explained but pretty much failed to communicate a lot of this as a film and was really boring to watch.