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We are very pleased to present one of Canada’s best-kept secrets: the intensely personal and visually sumptuous films of John Price. “Working meticulously with the surface of the film through optical printing, hand-processing and tinting and toning, Price has created an intensely wrought body of work that is truly a testament to the power of hand-made films and a prime example of the materiality of the celluloid that parallels the personal nature of the work.” (Alex MacKenzie, The Blinding Light!!)
This screening will feature several of John’s earlier works which he will introduce in person, as well as the Toronto premiere of his most ambitious film, After Eden (30 min., 2001). Culled from materials filmed and collected for nearly a decade, After Eden begins with a mythic parable that blazes into a traveling portrait of imaginary and remembered ruminations on life, memory and the nature of suffering. As a contemporary reworking of a mythic tale, After Eden is at once mystifying, mesmerizing and disturbing. Also on the programme are Remembrance, Outlet, The View Never Changes, Wreck/Nation and Westcoast Reduction, plus recently shot rolls of spectacular black and white hand-processing never before projected!
Sunset (1997, 3:00 min., colour, silent)
Central Washington…it was my 7th trip across the U.S. in an old Dodge van…the sun was setting and the sky was on fire…
Outlet (1993, 6:00 min., b/w, optical sound)
The first time using outdated 20 year old film stock. The first roll I was to process by hand. It was an election year…winter time in Vancouver…sitting in my kitchen…I don’t remember the sun coming out again until March.
The View Never Changes (1996, 6:00 min., b/w, optical sound)
Carefully composed as both a gentle and highly critical portrait of the filmmaker’s relationship with his father, this beautifully hand-processed film manages to offer a balanced study heavy with the weight of family history and family ties. (Alex MacKenzie)
Wreck/Nation (1998, 12:00 min., colour & b/w, optical sound)
Wreck: I passed the wreck not long after crossing into Saskatchewan. Day 3, alone, driving west toward Vancouver. On the other side of the highway, a twisted mess of iron and steel. Rail cars like beached whales strewn arbitrarily in heaps rupturing the perspective symmetry of the endless prairie. At once an allusion to the fallibility of industrialization and modernity, I felt after it had flashed past the windscreen, that there were significations here that reached far deeper than this immediate literal interpretation. Half an hour after I had watched the image recede completely into the astern horizon through my side view mirror, the memory of this apocalyptic tableaux – its darkly poetic irony – would compel me to turn back. Nation: A roll of film shot in Montreal at the 1995 rally against the secession of Quebec became the raw material for a candy colored hand-processed meditation on the idea of &lrquo;˜Nation’.
Nine + 20 (1995-2000, 10:00 min., b/w, optical sound)
An extremely simple portrait of one of the most humble and deeply spirited people IÃve ever known. Trained in Ireland as a welder, Michael Dolan preferred dancing so he dropped the torch, put on a tutu and began performing internationally with LaLaLa Human Steps.
427 + 401 (2001, 3:00 min., b/w, silent)
A strange little place that has always fascinated me.
West Coast Reduction (2000, 4:00 min., colour & b/w, optical sound)
Shot during a particularly dark downtown east side December, this was originally supposed to be part of a Cineworks Omnibus project. Due to very sad and unfortunate circumstances the project was derailed, and I had to finish it on my own. It is dedicated to Eva Madden.
P.N.E. (1998, 3:00 min., colour, silent)
A day at the fair… imagine circus music, the smell of emu burgers on the grill, and lots of &lrquo;˜those little donuts’…
After Eden (1990-2000, 30:00 min, b&w, optical sound)
Part diary film…part urban ethnography…part excavation in search of faith amidst landscapes of concrete it is a compilation film assembled from rolls of super 8 and 16mm that I shot, hand processed, optically printed and edited in many places. The film’s structure was inspired primarily by a chance encounter with a young German traveler who I met in San Francisco… destitute and alone. The soundtrack was cobbled together over many years…found albums mostly…narration recorded while working on location…Hollywood movies…motel bathtubs…dreams.
Just a week ago i picked up three large reels of super 8 film at a small town flea market in the GaspÃ©… they were heaped together in a crate of soggy warped records… of 70s QuÃ©becois disco, the health risks of venereal disease, supreme court cases transcribed, Nazareth, a folk poet doing spoken word etc…the film seemed to have sustained some perforation damage but had retained it’s color so i decided to buy them…two bucks apiece. Upon arrival back in Toronto, i unpacked, set up the projector and reclined in my old lazy boy. The first reel was a disappointment…the camera operator tried desperately to catch all the action and would not hold his gaze for more than a second or two before whipping the camera somewhere else. Roll number two was worthy of a permanent installation…or at least a booth at an art fair. It began with a static tableau…the owner of the camera had purchased a tripod and had set up in a rural kitchen in Quebec circa 1982…an older man stands centred in the frame…badly hunched over holding onto a large dead fish by the tail. The shot lasts for two or three minutes without a zoom or a pan or a cut…occasionally the old man smiles, looks at the fish and turns it to reveal the other side for the camera…he stands still looking into the camera which keeps on running. The rest of the reel is similar&lrquo;¦static shots in trailer home living rooms of people drinking stubbies of o’keefe…two old women standing in front of a large pair of elk antlers…a trip to the zoo…all long takes…and very static. i sat in wonder…this silent ethnographic time capsule seemed far more interesting to me than anything playing at the famous players. Why is this stuff interesting? maybe it doesn’t aspire to be dramatic…it’s just simple portraits…and there’s an understated beauty about the way in which the camera observes life. I think that’s it…a pure unadorned humanism that doesn’t seem to exist in mainstream cinema or television.
I don’t make movies from scripts…there are no actors…i shoot movie film like a traveler would shoot stills…as a diary or memory of experiences…travels…birthdays…christenings…break-ups…weddings…parades…holidays….good byes…using old 16mm film and processing it myself is cheaper than going digital…the emulsions texture somehow communicates on an emotional level and the process fascinates me…editing is like organizing a scrapbook…it is a process of reflection…who you were when the images were recorded and who you have become and how you have changed…how everything changes…an intensive process of observation, meditation and reflection…i think it’s an attempt to communicate a sense of the richness of humanity…the theatre of the absurd…the fragility of the past and present…besides friendship and loving it is the only way i know how to make sense of this place. (August 2001)
Thanks to roberto and tom for arranging the screening and to david, lea, len, carol, steve, alex and sarah for their inspiration
by John Price
by John Price