By Nicolás Carrasco
A few months ago, I had the chance to watch in NY for the first time, a film by Simon Liu. Projected in four 16mm projectors, Highview (2017), impressed me for its capacity of formally combining two concepts that refer back to, for example, Mekas, but with a completely different language. Liu’s work, if well could be identified with any of those “styles”, explores its own roads, completely unseen and singular.
Fallen Arches, his most recent film, isn’t the exception. In a first level, there’s an interest to retain in images moments without transcendence, but particularly significant for the pleasure they give. There’s in Liu, a fascination for small and beautiful things: the Hong Kong neon lights, Christmas tree lights, the reflection of buildings in the water, electrical stairs, trains, windows, moving cars, the sea, highways at night. Liu’s camera works as a catalog of these instants that attentive perception or conscience rescue from oblivion.
One can perceive in Liu’s work, this necessity to abstract the images that refer to memories, to how we perceive memories in our mind. In other words, we’re not talking about just a “registry” of reality, but an attempt by the author to supply the images of feelings that he has or felt at the moment of registration. The super impressions that compose the film are perceived as an urgent desire of the filmmaker to compress instants in a single frame, in just an image, to condense several weeks with his friends and family, in different places in the world in a small instant, to allow sharing, cinematically, how these memories affected him.
There’s beauty in small things.
The most recent film of American filmmaker Sky Hopinka, looks at the native Indian traditions and rescues the myths inspired by Xawiska, a root used by the Ho-Chunk tribe to reanimate people who suffered a faint. This root, the “Indian pipe plant”, can also induce a trance.
The mise-en-scène combines apocalyptic and psychedelic images with an epistolary correspondence between subjects we can see, who reflect on the myth and memory. However, few moments achieve transmitting a true state of trance or the sacred. Last year I wrote about a different Hopinka short film, also in Wavelengths: […] doesn’t find the way to differentiate itself from other very similar works that are produced every year in school films and documentary workshops.” And I’m afraid the same can be said about Fainting Spells.
Walled Unwalled presents itself as a cinematic study on political dimensions of sound and light through the narration of three different stories related to sensorial and sound information, compiled through walls, as well as the social, legal and psychological ramifications of these facts. The film puts in scene these narrations in three different isolated studio cabins, in which the author narrates testimonies of witnesses while texts and images are projected and refracted in the cabin walls, creating super impressions. The film explores in this way the fundamental abstractions of seeing and hearing, putting in evidence concrete cases in which architectural and acoustic new forms have been used for police abuse, torture and other ways to impose the low. However, no matter how good this premise is, the film can’t seem to transcend the fact of being a filmed performance, which makes its presence in an experimental film program like Wavelengths strange.
Wavelengths 3: Centerfold
Directed by Simon Liu
UK, USA, Hong Kong, 11 min
Wavelengths 1: Earth, wind & fire
Directed by Sky Hopinka
USA, 11 min
Wavelengths 2: Another Brick in the Wall
Directed by Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Germany, 20 min