By Monica Delgado

The Case of the Vanishing Gods is the new work of the filmmaker, archivist and film essayist Ross Lipman, which recovers the elements of fascination for the archive, reissue and essayistic reflection of his previous works. This time he makes it through a few episodes of a series called The Psycho ward, which is renamed differently for the purposes of the festival. But that is the least of it, what matters here is the way in which Lipman talks about the figure of the double, or the other, here embodied in the relationship of doll and ventriloquist through his constructions and imaginary in the cinema.

This Lipman project has two marked resources: On the one hand, from fiction, from the welcome of Dr. Laberynth, who, as in the horror television programs of the fifties, theatrically presents the plot or story that we will see. This is how we witness the encounter between two characters (embodied here by two types of archetypal puppets: one that evokes the ventrilucuous doll, and the other a psychoanalyst), where both agree to a hypnosis session, where hidden fears and the need for search for identity will be revealed. This approach explores this dichotomy of “reality” (the one that these living puppets live) and the dream, which Lipman welcomes with a pastiche-d tone, but that seeks to generate a kind of strangeness before this revealed psyche. And on the other, the critical part, composed of an ingenious montage from various films in the history of cinema that had ventriloquists or their dolls as protagonists. From this perspective of agglomeration of some beings, some of them already classics of the cinema (such as Chucky, Poltergeist’s clown, Annabelle or the characters of Puppet Master by David Schmoeller), Lipman manages to string together a rhetoric about how these dolls have been seen but not only from the performance, but in relation to their mentors. For example, scenes from The Unholy Three (1925) with Lon Chaney, the episode of Dead of Night (1945), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, the episodes The dummy (1963) or Caesar and me (1964) from the series The Twilight Zone, Magic (1979) directed by Richard Attenborough, with Anthony Hopkins to Dead Silence (2007) by James Wan. This montage that interweaves a universe of doublings or double personalities, is linked with the torment of the little protagonist of the first part, the patient who narrates his anxiety and madness from him to the psychoanalyst.

In this rehearsal part, Lipman saved the most wonderful film for last, The Great Gabbo (1929) by James Cruze, starring Erich von Stroheim, where the idea of ??the denial of the work of the ventriloquist appears and the illusion is created of being autonomous. Lipman’s montage also alludes to the malignant dimension or incarnation of evil that is attributed to these dolls that dream of their own lives. But, perhaps due to a misunderstanding of the drama that its protagonist reflects.

The Case of the Vanishing Gods is a pleasant experience from the skill of assembly, reuse and recycling to produce new meanings. And Lipman reveals his talent as an essay film, as we have already valued in previous works such as Between Two Cinemas or Notfilm.

Histoire (s) du cinéma section
The Case of the Vanishing Gods
Director: Ross Lipman
Photography and editing: Ross Lipman
Sound: John Polito
Music: Mihály Víg
Cast: David Isaacson, Jeff Dorchen, Audrey Densmore, Karl Herlinger
USA, 2021, 71 min.