Talking Pictures: Fred Camper on Nature and Cinema | Chicago Reader

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A critic's choice in the truest sense, as Reader contributor Fred Camper uses slides and experimental films to illustrate how art represents nature. The earliest work, Jean Epstein's Le tempestaire (1947), is a textbook example of crosscutting between separate events in the service of storytelling: verite images of a storm on Cape Breton alternate with staged scenes of a young woman waiting for her sailor husband and paying a visit to the village seer, generating a suspenseful, magical fable with the look of a Flaherty documentary. Stan Brakhage takes the lyrical view of nature as an ominous, mythical force several steps further: The Wold-Shadow is an elegy to an ancient forest, while The Creation presents a rapid and spellbinding montage of primordial wilderness, both films inviting viewers to construct their own meaning. Chris Welsby's Seven Days gathers time-lapse images of clouds as well as the camera's own shadow. And Susie Benally's A Navajo Weaver (1966) shows how a Native American woman makes a rug using what nature has to offer; a “documentary” without narration or music, it deliberately sends the viewer into a time warp. Camper will also discuss work by visual artists Tom Thomson, Tom Czarnopys, Julia Fish, and Michael Paha.

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