Saturday, October 10, 2015

Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson's new film "The Forbidden Room" at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 16 - 22

Next week the Northwest Film Forum presents the most recent in Guy Maddin's forays into phantasmagoric cinema. "The Forbidden Room" is Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson's kaleidoscopic tribute to the cinematic canon, it watches as a veritable psychedelic trip through the very form of film. Maddin's adventure boring wormholes through narratives-within-narratives, in seemingly infinite regress it subsumes form and content from the silent era to early 30s and 40s talkies, to 50s melodrama, to 60s and 70s exotica and beyond. Utilizing chemical and digital degradation processes along with a twinned auditory effect in Galen Johnson's deeply Hauntological soundtrack constructed from repurposed classical music and incidental film scores. Together the sound and image making for a headily over-brimming, absurd concoction of hallucinogenic digressions and narrative tips of the hat, all rendered (again with both digital and analog tools) in wildly divergent film stock, color coding, media artifacts and states of decrepitude. Their approach to both form and technique in their paradoxically original pastiche detailed in Cinema-Scope's "Lost in the Funhouse: A Conversation with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson" and further quantified in the pages of Film Comment as "too much is just right", Jonathan Romney delves deep into the movie-mad filmmaker’s latest feat of phantasmagorical cinema, "The Infernal, Ecstatic Desire Machine of Guy Maddin". Last year I encountered a previous work in this style by the trio. Their "Kino Ektoplasma" multi-screen installation was created as a resurrection of lost films of the German Expressionist era in a preternaturally gorgeous, transmutive sequence, specifically commissioned as part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s.

The Silent Era is in the midst a brief rise into greater public consciousness, inspiring some genuinely inquisitive forays into documentation, restoration and preservation. With some 85% of all of silent film believed to be lost, Canada's own artist of artifice extraordinaire, Maddin has taken it upon himself to create Silent Cinema revivals of quite a different sort. His proposed "Making 100 Short Films in 100 Days in Four Countries with Current Project 'Spiritismes'" led the way to the series of "Séances". Which had the first of their invocations and performance at Spiritismes at the Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2012 with a second set of performances "Guy Maddin’s Performance Installation 'Séances' Begins Filming" at Montreal's Phi Centre a year later. The completed project to be hosted by the National Film Board wherein the interactive format will allow for viewers to shuffle the films together into singular combinations of longer narratives, generating their own unique construction. In an interview with Jonathan Ball, the director details the differences involved in these concurrent projects, "Guy Maddin on The Forbidden Room and Writing Melodrama"; "While "The Forbidden Room" is a feature film with its own separate story and stars, "Séances" will be an interactive Internet project, something that anyone online can visit and play with. It’s a place — a dark place! — where anyone online can hold séances with the spirits of cinema, lost and forgotten cinema. The "Séances" project has really evolved in recent months. It was going to be title-for-title remakes of specific lost films, but we found as we went that the spirits of many other lost movies, and the spirit of loss in general, haunted our sets and demanded to be represented in front of our cameras."