Two films by Michael Snow

Dec 08, 2016

Wavelength: (Michael Snow, Canada, 1967, 16mm, 45 min)
To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror: (Michael Snow, Canada, 1991, 16mm, 52 min)

16mm prints!

With his film Wavelength, Michael Snow revolutionized the international Avant-garde film scene like no other production. Viewed from its basic concept, this is a purely “formal” film: it consists of a single, 45-minute-long tracking shot through the length of a room, accompanied by slowly-increasing sine tones. As the camera moves forward through the room’s space (when carefully studied the movement is not continuous, but made up of individual passages edited together), one registers the passing of several nights and days. The camera is ultimately moving toward a spot between two windows at the back of the room, where a photograph on the wall shows the unsettled surface of the sea; in the end, the camera comes so close to it that only the waves fill the screen.
The fascination of this film can be explained through the application of the formal principle of the tracking shot, which seems to determine the entire film, with stray elements of reality: people occasionally appear in the frame; the telephone rings; apparently someone is even murdered in this space. Even what one can recognize of the street through the windowpane constitutes a counter-element to a purely “abstract” form.
“Wavelength ranks among those films which force viewers, regardless of how they react, to carefully consider the essence of the medium and, just as unavoidably, reality,” - Amos Vogel
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Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) was a French chemist who gave the first accurate scientific explanation of the mysteries of fire. He also proved the law of conservation of matter, which states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. His work and this film are situated between modern chemistry and alchemy. The film stages a drama of abstraction and theoretical realism. La vie quotidenne seen photo-chemically and musically. This film is a materialist projected-image conservation of matter.

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