World in Focus. Michael Snow and Vincent Grenier

Michael Snow and Vincent Grenier, two of the most important Canadian avant-garde film artistes, share an ironic and reflective sense of humour that involves the viewer in their works. Snow’s cinema stands out both for its brilliant formal research and its intellectual depth, which it uses to explore ideas about image, language and reality. Some of his most splendid works, such as Wavelength (1967), defined the sensibility of Vincent Grenier from the start of his filmic creation. This session presents four of Grenier’s early films, each in its own way exploring the ambiguity of cinematographic representation, and one by Snow, Seated Figures (1988), a road movie seen from the perspective of an exhaust pipe.

Grenier’s early films present a structural and minimalist style focused on the most essential technical aspects of the medium: light, diaphragm, focus and blur, as in World in Focus (1976), the screen in X (1976), the emulsion and the projector in While Revolved (1976) and the photographic image in Intérieur Interiors (to A.K.) (1978). However, the cinematographic, as it appears in his work, does not constitute a fixed, static object. Instead it is an opening to various possibilities of transformation, revealing complex ideas about the forms and structures of everyday life. The intimately filmed gestures and the viewer’s participation in them, games with the illusion of the three-dimensional image and the search for visual ambiguities give his body of work a poetic but distant charm and an undeniable philosophical meaning.

In Seated Figures (1988) Michael Snow continues his research on the syntax of cinema by exhaustively cataloguing all the possibilities offered by a certain movement or cinematographic device. The Canadian artist explored camera movement to the extreme in La région centrale (1971) to question the assumptions underlying certain theories about cinematic time and space. In Seated Figures, Snow’s camera is mounted at the back of a vehicle, pointing at the ground. The constantly moving images take us through all types of terrain, from asphalt and gravel roads to dirt and mud tracks, over grasses, flowers and streams. Between abstraction and representation, the images move, stop and accelerate, showing a variety of surfaces and textures that flow before our eyes at different speeds. We simultaneously hear the noises of the audience watching the film—voices, coughs, yawns and the hum of the projector—that create a distancing effect from the visual experience that triggers new sensations.

Vincent Grenier: X, 1976, silent, 8’; Intérieur Interiors (to A.K.), 1978, 15’; Closer Outside, 1981, silent, 9’; World in Focus, 1976, silent, 16’. Michael Snow: Seated Figures, 1988, 40’.

16-mm projection

Vincent Grenier copies from the Film-makers’ Cooperative. Copy of Seated Figures from LUX.

1 February 2024


The Auditorium
Admission fee

€ 4 / € 3 Concessions
5-session pass: € 15 / € 12 Concessions
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