June 19, 2017

Born in 1978, the Canadian experimental filmmaker Alexandre Larose did not get into film until his twenties, when he had already received a graduate degree in engineering. Directors who impressed him in his youth ‒ Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven for instance ‒ have little in common with his work today. Larose is thankful for this early gap between him and the world of film because it allowed him to create without the heavy burden of film’s history and tradition, allowing him work freely. This is, however, truly paradoxical, because his work fits perfectly into the goal of modern experimental cinema in so far as it is the perfect continuation of film’s progress in modern history. It is the peak of trying to deconstruct reality on film in such a way that the viewer can internalize it fully  ‒  it remains in the realm of cinema while having the same effect as reading poetry, listening to music or witnessing a performance act. His  short films explore a kind of a reality within a reality, and this constant tension between time, as it is presented on screen, and time, as it is in real life, is the reason why his films demand full attention.

“First I deconstruct reality and show how the process occurs, but then I immediately show its reconstruction,” says Larose of his working process. “I do it in such a way though that the end result is different from what I have started with. I do work with a storyboard of the narrative line but then I reshoot everything a dozen times so that I can later use those multiple shots and cut them in such a way that the original narrative line is in complete disarray. Ultimately, I do not care about temporal continuity because I want to play with the idea of continuity itself. [Legendary Yugoslav experimental filmmaker] Ivan Ladislav Galeta’s work inspires me, for instance, because I am interested in the type of art which does not have an end result per se but  the construction process has several outlets. For this reason, the whole of the filming experience is more important than particular phases of the process, including the end result”.

brouillard #14

Aesthetically, Larose’s films seem to take from fine arts and the audience at VIS immediately wondered if his brouillard series, representing much aestheticized walks behind his parents house, intentionally resembles impressionism. This was due to, perhaps, his screening being held at Vienna’s Filmmuseum, right under Albertina, which featured an exhibition of Monet’s work. But Larose dismisses this approach as misleading and “too direct”.

The interpretation of his work changes if we learn about the process that went into making the film. Brouillard, for instance, has an immediate aesthetic quality to it, but the interpretation is somewhat different when we learn it was shot by countless rewinding of the Super 8 reel. The series becomes “a microscope into time”, as he worded it.

Larose details the process: “It happened that I would have to wait an enitre summer to finish re-filming the Super 8 reels. I would then go the lab to develop the film so I could not see the results of my work until much later. Even with a shorter brouillard, I would have to wait two or three months to see the final film. When I finally did see it, I was very pleased with the results and then had to wait for the upcoming summer to continue with that kind of work”.

A work in progress, shot in New Zealand

Such a disciplined, repetitious process, stripped of the glamour of fast-paced work with actors and cameramen, is more resemblant of “a prison”, comments Larose jokingly. It is a continuous loop of working on a single, banal shot, deconstructed and then transformed until it reaches a dream-like quality. It seems as if his films are constantly reflecting on themselves. How does one commit to rewinding a Super 8 reel 300 times? He answers that he needs to go a step too far in his work in order to then look back and see where he wants to be. “If I do not go a step too far I feel guilty, like I am missing something or like I do not know where I am. When it gets too technical, the work loses meaning and I stop”.

Another of his translucent dives into exploring the limits of film is the 12-minute Ville Marie. It is a depiction of a recurrent dream of him falling from the titular, well-known Quebec building Ville Marie. He is facing up to the sky and does not know how near his imminent collision with the ground is. During his masterclass at VIS, an audience member pointed out that his films may be analyzed through Freudian associations, like dreams. To such intimate endeavours, Larose could only comment that such full-frontal confrontation with his reasons to work in film seems excessive and ultimately misses the point. “If I knew what I was searching for, then I would have already found it and there would be little reason to go on with the process”.

Larose instead showed a documentary of his work on a rocket-camera that could film the fall from Ville Marie. The film is essentially a slightly humorous series of shots of cameras falling on the ground and breaking. When talking about his work, he often mentions he loves error on film and work from bottom up. “ I want the film to start off as imperfect. If the error does not occur on its own, I try to provoke it and then continue working on the film from then on”.

But there is an underlying cause for why his films seem so out of touch with the constructed film reality we are used to. Even in contemporary experimental cinema, the directors still try and keep the illusion. In Larose’s work, the effort that was put into the film is made visible and contributes to the overall effect. “What I want to achieve is that the viewer can suspend his belief or keep the illusion going. It is important for me that both options are possible”.

After the screening of his films, the air at the Filmmuseum could have been cut by a knife. As we waited for him to change the original reels, it was as if we were part of a philosophical void, pushed into thinking about our own perception of time within time like with the film Le Corps Humain. It is precisely this effect that borders his work with performative art. Filmmuseum’s Alejandro Bachmann stood up and pointed out that the waiting was not intentional, it just takes time to change a film reel, as if to say that the sharp silence in the room is just a natural byproduct of watching Larose’s work and not a part of a schemed out performance. What does it say about Larose’s films that Bachmann had to remind us that they are, after all, just films?

Marija Jeremić