VANCOUVER EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA
The Films & The Filmmakers
CANADIAN PACIFIC I / David Rimmer / 1974
A view out a dingy window of Vancouver harbour and the north-shore mountains cycles through the seasons. Meditative and strangely emotional as the landscape plays hide and seek with our perception. A superb moving painting.
DAVID RIMMER was quickly recognized as a key Canadian experimentalist with Surfacing on the Thames (1970), Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper (1970) and Canadian Pacific I and II (1974-75). His work and influence is consummate in Canadian filmmaking. Rimmer is a recipient of the 2011 Governor General’s Awards in visual and media arts.
Bold, hypnotic and visually stunning, Lumiere’s Train celebrates the birth of cinema, the rebirth of cinema through the avant-garde, and the machinations of cinematic inspiration itself.
AL RAZUTIS - Filmmaker, Holographer, Critical Essayist - Al Razutis has been spinning visual alchemy consistently since he arrived in Vancouver in the late 60's. An epiphany pulled him away from a PhD in Nuclear Physics program and landed him projecting Gary Lee-Nova’s Steel Mushrooms onto a Scientology building in 1968. A formidable force of nature, Razutis conducted film screenings at Intermedia, built his own optical printer, and inspired (or angered) a generation of filmmakers. He received a 1988 Los Angeles Film Critics Award, and his media art works are found in a number of international collections.
LUMIERE’S TRAIN (ARRIVING AT THE STATION / Al Razutis / 1979
THE CENTRAL CHARACTER / Patricia Gruben / 1977
An amorphous protagonist — a housewife perhaps — disintegrates as her persona moves from the emphatically organized environment of the kitchen to the organic profusion of the garden. Using a combination of fragmented optically treated images, texts, recursive images, and sound loops, Gruben explores the breakdown of feminine subjectivity.
PATRICIA GRUBEN came from Texas to Vancouver via Toronto becoming a major figure in Canadian avant-garde cinema along the way. After working behind the scenes in a variety of roles including set decorator she made her first film, The Central Character, in 1979. She has directed feature films (Deep Sleep 1992), taught film production at Simon Fraser University since 1984 and helped to create the renowned Praxis Centre for Screenwriters.
ECLIPSE / Peter Lipskis / 1979
In a motel room a TV plays the live broadcast of an eclipse. In the background, out the window, the street scene is dingy and dark. On the TV the eclipse passes. Outside, the street brightens slightly. Part landscape and documentary, Eclipse illuminates the improvisational nature where chance meets design and creates a great moment.
“PETER LIPSKIS is the mad hobbyist of the Canadian fringe. He celebrates a mechanical universe, where the merely human has been replaced by a transcendent technology.” Mike Hoolboom, Inside The Pleasure Dome.
SEEING IN THE RAIN / Chris Gallagher / 1981
This electrifying work deconstructs a point-of-view from a city bus moving down Vancouver’s Granville Street. The windshield wiper is the only constant as the image moves through the impermanence of time.
“The film embodies the essence of cinema; movement, rhythm and the poignancy of ephemeral gestures.” J. Hoerman
CHRIS GALLAGHER is a steadfast avant-garde filmmaker and continues to make bold experimental work, most notably Time Being (2011) a feature-length exploration of time and our place in it.
A DAY MUCH LIKE THE OTHERS / Sturla Gunnarsson / 1977 This film represents artistic longing set against the inability to find ones way. A male figure lies in a void. He rises cautiously to action, only to encounter darkness, confusion and directions that lead back to his own powerlessness. Shot at UBC, the film went on to win The Student Film Festival in Montreal (1978).
STURLA GUNNARSSON - A Day Much Like The Others was the experimental work that launched the career of one of Canada’s most notable film directors. After the notoriety of this experimental short, Gunnarsson went on to direct the Academy Award nominated documentary After The Axe in 1983. Such a Long Journey (1998) was his first fiction film to garner international recognition. It received twelve Genie Award nominations, including best picture.
FAR FROM QUEBEC / Kirk Tougas / 1971
Abandoned whaling boats in a barren, forbidding landscape. The absolute stillness evokes a deathlike atmosphere of restless longing.
KIRK TOUGAS personifies passion in life and filmmaking. As director, cinematographer, curator he has never shied away from the demanding, the overwhelming or the dangerous. He has shot some of the most notable Canadian documentaries including A Place Called Chiapis, Fix The Story of an Addicted City and The Corporation to name but a few. He was also one of the founders of Vancouver’s Pacific Cinematheque which continues to thrive today.
BACKBONE / Tom Braidwood / 1972
Found footage of a soldier yelling ‘fire’ and a cannon discharging loop relentlessly. The image becomes increasingly unsettling as the rhythmic soundtrack slips sync and turns our perceptions inside out. A jarring reflection of war.
TOM BRAIDWOOD was deeply involved with the Vancouver experimental theatre group Tamahnous as an actor and writer as well as making some notable early experimental film work. In film and television he has worked as a Story Editor, Producer and Assistant Director. He returned to his acting roots as Melvin Frohike on the series The X Files and subsequent spin-off series, The Lone Gunmen.
STEEL MUSHROOMS / Gary Lee-Nova / 1967
A psychedelic hallmark of early Vancouver experimental cinema. This collage of shapes and textures shot in the back alleys of Vancouver's downtown east side is set against found footage of nuclear annihilation. A frenetic cacophony of sound and image.
GARY LEE-NOVA came to filmmaking as a natural extension of his artistic explorations in painting and sculpture. He worked along side luminaries Michael Morris, Al Neil, Sam Perry and bill bissett. His work appears in the collection of The National Gallery of Canada. Lee-Nova blasted into the early film scene, left his indelible mark, and moved on to other artistic explorations.
IN BLACK AND WHITE / Michael McGarry / 1979This unsung and significant spark of LGBT cinema charges off the screen exploring themes of preference, eroticism, sexual politics and harassment. A complete and early depiction of gay rage.
MICHAEL MCGARRY was one of the tragic early casualties of aids. He left behind some fine films and the feeling that more was to come. What we have is a wonderful work of experimental drama and the thoughts of the people who knew and worked with him.