Doc Blog

TIFF’s Wavelengths section is a curated presentation of artist-made film and video from around the world. The term “artist-made” is increasingly replacing the more slippery and elusive idiom “avant-garde” and the somewhat aloof-sounding “experimental”. They’re just labels, equally expendable, elastic and appropriated at will. Unlike some of my international colleagues, I actually like the terms, but recognize nonetheless that what counts is the ethos: the mode of expression, the personal means of production, the risk-taking.

This year’s Wavelengths demonstrates a remarkable surge in filmmaking, longform and on celluloid, with many works fitting the documentary label in our unflagging urge to categorize. Incidentally, a similar desire for taxonomy emerges variously from some of the works, as diary, catalogue, high-seas chronicle, photographic roadtrip, artistic encounter, protest, even home movie moments. The avant-garde (yes, I’m using the term) is plunging itself into our visual reality, returning to pictorialism and duration, no doubt as rejoinder to our frighteningly accelerated and digitally multiplied world. Some of these films are slow. In a good way. In a regenerative way that brings us back to reality, that offers up the beauty of the world as something to behold and hold onto, allowing us to withstand the unnecessary and unfortunate ills that plague us.

Heinz Emigholz’s SCHINDLER’S HOUSES, which is part 12 of his colossal PHOTOGRAHY AND BEYOND film series is a 35mm catalogue of forty of R. M. Schindler’s houses built in and around Los Angeles between 1921 and 1952. Through Emigholz’s discerning eyes, we view these Modernist architectural marvels, sometimes in surprising compositions created by the filmmaker, and other times,  in equally surprising or dismaying states of decay caused by neglect, weather and time. The film leads us on a pilgrimage, allowing us to discover this significant body of work, as though they were in situ frescos in Italy. Emigholz renders us the time to observe, contemplate, to become familiar with and to recognize Schindler’s unique architectural vocabulary. He may have studied under Frank Lloyd Wright but his signature style is all is own. Time is cinematic, and hence mechanical, artistic, prescribed, etc…but for the viewer, it’s felt as pure luxury. A cameo by Thom Andersen (seated in his Schindler house) whose award-winning documentary LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF screened in Reel to Reel a few years back, provides a cinematic wink. Here, Los Angeles really is playing itself.

Revisit Doc Blog later this week to learn about other Wavelengths docs. Click here for information about Wavelengths tickets.
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