Reason Over Passion | Chicago Reader

Reason Over Passion

Joyce Wieland's rarely screened 1969 masterpiece is a neglected landmark of avant-garde film. Taking the form of a cross-country trip on the Trans-Canada Highway, a mostly two-lane road that snakes through forests and mountain ranges, it affords views very different from those offered by U.S. interstates. The sameness of a road trip—the way all windshield views begin to look alike—is modified by a feeling of openness, as Wieland joins images not to fuse two parts of the land but to suggest the unseen spaces between them. Superimposed on the landscapes are anagrams of the phrase “la raison avant la passion,” taken from a speech by Canada's former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. But the poetic quality of the landscapes seems to argue for passion over reason, as does Wieland's playful rearranging of the letters. At the same time, the systematic way the letters are shifted suggests a rational method, and the film is sincere enough to take the prime minister seriously.

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