Which is Witch? (2020)

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

The 22nd edition of Cinémas Différents et Expérimentaux in Paris has reunited some of the most intriguing and interesting experimental works around the globe (55 films from 33 countries). This online program allowed us to watch the latest works of major names in cinema like Roger Deutsch, Jacques Perconte, Patrick Bokanowski, and others.

It was indeed a pleasant surprise to find Marie Losier’s latest short film Which is Witch? (2020), which plays with the idea of bringing Louis II of Bavaria to life again, defrosting him through a magical rite in which three sisters are involved. Louis II is played by musician/composer Felix Kubin, who also scores the short film. Losier had already worked with Kubin in Felix in Wonderland (2019), a documentary about the musician. Here, Kubin, in the role of Louis II, is captured by three witches (Claire Doyon, Elina Löwensohn, Joana Preiss) who attempt to resurrect him , looking to “extract certain musical mysteries” (clearly alluding to the patronage Louis II had with Richard Wagner).

While decidedly brief, Losier’s short pays the b-movie game pretty well (probably with the influence of Bertrand Mandico, who was an important figure collaborating in the film), introducing herself and her cast in a sort of Anger-esque magik ritual with certain elements of the macabre (guts being sewn together, among other fun things). The atmosphere and ambiance of the ritual takes a big part of the film, submerging it in this surrealist strata where everything is chant, alchemy, evocation. Luis II comes to life but is still frozen for good, never speaks, never acts, and it’s like his primal energy is taken away before he withdraws back to the afterlife. An energetic fairy tale of sorts, filled with mythical creatures and rituals, properly scored by Kubin.

Vers Syracuse (2020)

The pictorial component of Bokanowski’s latest experimentation in Vers Syracuse (2020), draws from a late Cezannean impressionism to translate this code of color and brush in the digital realm. What Bokanowski has made is inserting himself in the latest tradition of translating pictorial codes for new technologies in the digital era, something that had been a constant experiment in Jacques Perconte’s work, Wolfgang Lehmann’s, and in certain degree in Guli Silberstein films. Bokanowski is certainly interested in drawing this pulsating image of the scenery, in which movement acquires a completely different and more dynamic resonance. But, while other artists of the digital image can carefully compose abstract tableau while manipulating certain components of the digital image, here the filmmaker seems to let the mere result of his abstraction loose, resulting in a plunge into a pictorial and sound space that very much depends of how the recorded images react to his manipulation, which can be a little disorienting given the decidedly moving camera being used in certain moments. Despite of that, Bokanowski achieves moment of pure pictorial bliss, like some beach scenes which can be taken directly to a canvas, or certain moments where the abstraction of the image in its purest form achieves a very particular beauty. The counterpoint of the score makes for an ominous film at moments, which plays a certain tension with the familiarity of the images.

special dark glass somewhere (2020)

Charlotte Clermont is an artist whose poetic codes are far from transparent, and in that lies the beauty of his carefully composed images. where i don’t meet you (2019) and Plants Are Like People (2018), seen in the latest Crossroads festival, struck me as playful creatures resisting to be decoded, but in their opacity and playfulness, and its own existence as “film poems”, lies their charm and also this “diffuse clarity” that we try to unveil. special dark glass somewhere (2020) also draws from this intention of the “diffuse clarity”, playing with what could better be described as “emotional associations”. The presence of the symbol, of the landscape, the manipulation of the sound strip, all play a role in building this universe of interlacing fantasies, a world that is deeply engraved in Clermont’s imagination and is shown for all to see, behind a thin veil, never openly stripping itself to the open truth. But, as it is true with dreams and imagination, sometimes is better to go through the experience of fantasy and the oneiric to find a truth which resonates inside (whether is a resistance/imposibility/imminence of connection – with the image of the two elbows, or a rarefied atmosphere that can mirror an inner turmoil) . Clermont films are living creatures that reside in a parallel universe and are best watched at a distance. Viviane Voltige & Claire Lunaire complement the film perfectly with a glitchy, well designed score.

RAW POWER (2020)

In a different vein lies Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt’s RAW POWER (2020), which is all about extracting the primal energies of the body to set them in a different time-space (total force, total speed, to caress infinity, to transcend flesh). Immaculately scored by Marc Hurtado, Vallancourt’s film captures boxers  Momoko Kawashima and Mie Takahashi in a training match, and then allows this epilepsy of the image transcend the capture and get closer to the true experience of human power, the outer-body experience of a controlled confrontation. Many aspects are in play here, such as the slowed-down speed and the almost abstraction of the energy of the match. In setting the boxers in a pulsing ralenti, Vaillancourt is capturing the pure essence of energy and speed, and abstracting it into its very own creature. Hurtado’s music, like a void, sucks the time-space from the image and places as on the margin of a black hole, which in the end, is Vaillancourt camera, devouring everything from the image and the performance of fighting. The lenses swallow up everything: the tension, the violence, the dynamics, the speed, spilling them back into the image as a processed pure abstraction of energy. Remarkable.

Which is Witch?
Dir: Marie Losier
Cast: Felix Kubin, Claire Doyon, Elina Löwensohn, Joana Preiss
Cinematography: Pascale Granel
France, 2020, 5’50

Vers Syracuse
Dir: Patrick Bokanowski
France, 2020, 5’40

special dark glass somewhere
Dir: Charlotte Clermont
Music: Viviane Voltige & Claire Lunaire
Canada, 2020, 4’35RAW POWER

Dir: Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt
Music: Marc Hurtado
Canada, Japan, 2020, 5’45