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TIFF Q&A: with CFMDC Filmmaker Alexandre Larose
Alexandre Larose is a Montréal-based filmmaker. He imparts a variety of formal processes in his work, which often create unintentional meaning for the viewer. The end results are stunning, impressive and always leave you wondering how he achieves his visuals.
Larose approaches art-making from an interdisciplinary perspective, having first completed in Bachelor of Engineering before going on to study Experimental Film at Concordia University. His work has screened globally at major festivals like Oberhausen, Images, Rotterdam and Jihlava.
This year, Alexandre screen his newest film brouillard-passage #14 as one of TIFF’s Wavelengths shorts programmes. He was kind enough to take some time to tell Studio Beat all about it….
Q: Congratulations on TIFF! Watching brouillard-passage #14, there is this very dream-like and almost underwater quality that is invoked. Could you talk a bit about the film and the process behind making it?
Larose: It’s actually difficult to talk about this, because what you’re describing is something that I discovered along the way, in the process, so there wasn’t a pre-decided strategy to try and achieve that effect.The sequence that you saw results from a number of other iterations that I’ve done over the years. Passage #14 is the first film that I shot at a very high speed, so everything is sort of slowed down.
For me, it’s more about the process of making. It can be kind of overwhelming. It’s not as much about a philosophical reflection or anything like that. In the film, I’m just walking along a path as many times as there are layers–just doing that, physically, is quite difficult.
The camera is heavy and things can fail. Maybe you noticed a part where the film becomes reddish and then there’s a cut. That happens because at the last passage I was trying to do, the film broke down in the camera and so that was the end of the shoot. Fortunately, I had enough material to have an image, but the point is, everything is made before the film is actually processed. The resulting swimming underwater look and the dreaminess–that comes from all those layers being so thin and light. They add up in a way that doesn’t look like just one single image.
Q: Formal treatment of the film medium seems pretty integral to your work.
Larose: With any medium, I’ll ultimately try to provoke it or push it so that it reveals something that was not anticipated. That’s something I know that is present throughout my work, and even more so in passage #14. It’s almost like I’m not intending to show you what I have in mind, but that I’m a catalyst that sets conditions and then whatever happens results from those conditions.
Q: Was there anything that led you to take this direction? What led you to film? I know you were an engineering student beforehand.
Larose: The first film I made in 2006, 9:30 was shot in a train tunnel in Quebec city and that film basically brought me down this route. Initially, while shooting that film in the tunnel,I had a very precise agenda of how I wanted the image to look. In shooting on location however, there were so many problems like not knowing if a train would be there, or if my equipment would fail. I got all sorts of footage that I couldn’t shoot again so I had to do something with what I had.
I ended up wanting to treat the images with an optical printer to recreate what I initially had in mind. Then the optical printer started to do things that I didn’t expect…I was only starting to hand process myself and I made all sorts of mistakes.The film became the result of all of those accidents. I’m not sure if this involves my engineering background, but I think I really wanted an initial impression to come out a certain way and that impression was hit with all sorts of external factors that I tried to control, but couldn’t.
brouillard-passage #14 is very much like this but to the point where I didn’t want to do anything at all to the footage after filming. Does that make sense?
Q: It does. Can you expand on the process of optical printing a bit?
Larose: Optical printing is exactly like an enlarger for photographic images. It works with images in motion, however. Just like with photographing an exposed strip of film and using an enlarger, you can control the rhythm, the exposure, the framing and all those things but since it works in time you can also alter frame rates, slow things down and make all sorts of other alterations. An optical printer translates in time, where in photography, it would be only with one image. It works with a lens and is essentially just another camera that shoots a filmed image.
Q: While on the topic of still vs. moving images, how do you think the film scene differs from the visual art scene in Canada? I find the two seem kind of separate currently.
Larose: I didn’t really know a lot about the visual arts scene before I did my MFA [at Concordia University]. I just finished there so I was kind of exposed to the whole gallery situation and things like that. More and more, I feel that filmmaking is sort of making its way to the gallery. For some reason, the festival circuit is so tied to the history of showing experimental work that there aren’t many cross sections in the two scenes. The whole experimental history was designed to fit into the cinema setting as a location.
I’m not saying that there hasn’t been experimental cinema displayed in a gallery before, but it’s always been about the image and less about the exhibition of the image. The gallery re-emphasizes presentation and that’s something that I’m currently thinking that may start to appear more often with film. Especially because there is so much less film now. Digital video integrates more easily into gallery because you don’t need any heavy analogue gear or anything like that. I also work on digital mediums actually, but I haven’t shown anything yet…
Q: I have a feeling that passage #14 will be moving a lot. Do you have any plans for the rest of 2014/2015?
Larose: I’m not going to be promoting passage #14 insanely or anything, actually. From the start, this project has been an on-going piece. I’m still producing more sequences and just finished one recently that I’m still waiting to see come back from the lab. My objective is to accumulate these sequences and then show them more in a gallery-type setting with a translucent screen. I want to do it with something quite large, and I’ve tested that before on another project with Solomon Nagler. I know that passage #14 fits well in the festival circuit because it’s kind of a self-contained work. It’s great that it works on it’s own, but the project is definitely still in motion.
Q: You’re in town this week for TIFF. What are you hoping to see if you have some down-time?
Larose: It’s funny because I didn’t know it would be like this, but there are a lot of events going on that I think I’m going to have to attend. I was more so looking forward to visiting the lab (Niagara Custom Lab), and seeing some friends. I’ll go to the Wavelengths programmes but I wasn’t going to go to anything else really. I think I’ll have to reconsider, it seems to be a very big circus this thing. I really didn’t expect it, it’s overwhelming even!
brouillard-passage #14 will play in Wavelengths 1: Open Forms on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 pm at AGO Jackman Hall. The film will also soon be available through distribution at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.
Candice Napoleone currently works at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre. Prior to the CFMDC, she held various positions at Papirmass, Art Metropole and C Magazine.