Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin’s specialty are avant-garde films that use the techniques of silent cinema to disorient the viewer. He’s good at it. I was first introduced to his work in Tales of the Gimli Hospital, fine viewing for a dark night in an isolated location. His work is never “easy,” and requires patience and interest. Maddin’s latest project is something unique in the history of cinema, and only made possible by access to it on the Internet. Maddin introduces Seances:
“Almost every director working in the first half‐century of film history has lost at least one film to the quirks of fate. These lost works remind me of ghosts. It’s easy to equate these films long gone missing, which exist forensically only in the form of a few production stills and some old Variety reviews, as restless spirits that haunt us. The landscape of cinema history is thronged with their likes, tormenting us with their promise of a return, of their warm refulgent brilliance restored to us, as in a miracle. There will never be the kind of closure the discovery of a dead body can bring to a family. These films will never be declared dead with any certainty, they will continue to haunt us with the possibility of their return. These lost film titles are the ‘hauntings’ we hope to invoke with Seances.”
Seances, co-created with Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, is experimental cinema for those who like drifting into a madhouse reverie, a strange almost hellishly-inscrutable dream from which there is no waking. It’s an endless hall of mirrors. No escape because there’s no exit.
Technically, Seances is web-based avant-garde cinema art consisting of a large number of short silent films set to music, which are intermixed at random in bits and pieces by computer algorithms. Maddin shot the films, sometimes one each day, at the Phi Centre in Montreal and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, with the participation of actors such as Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, and genre favorite Udo Keir, among many others.
What’s most fascinating to me about the project is that when you visit the SEANCES website, it opens and fills your computer monitor. An odd title appears center screen, undulating, and then suddenly it changes to a different title. Sometimes the new title is completely different, other times only a few words change. When you click and hold down your cursor it’s as if a roulette wheel is spinning—whatever film is generated is usually a different length, with a title selected apparently at random, with scenes plucked willy-nilly and shown in an order that changes with every viewing.
The movie you watch will never be seen by anyone else, nor will it exist after you are finished viewing it. I’ve sneakily captured two of these below.
When you’re ready for the full experience (whatever it may be) click here.
You can also watch seven of the separate films which comprise Seances on Vimeo [https://vimeo.com/album/2467058]
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