Digital has replaced film in most productions being shot today. Most filmmakers will agree it is "easier": you can shoot a lot more, be more spontaneous and see what you are shooting right away. But "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations", said one of the greatest filmmakers, Orson Welles. Are we killing creativity?
Alan Roe, CEO of Jacro, recently revealed to me that his company is still able to turn plastic and polyester into 16mm and 35mm perforated film. They are also able to produce splicing tape for all widths of film. He asked me if I knew anyone who still appreciated the virtues of film in their work, particularly if they felt that it still has a role to play in education: like requiring to be right without seeing it immediately? I immediately thought of Atom Egoyan.
Atom Egoyan is one of the most celebrated contemporary filmmakers on the international scene. His body of work – which includes films, theatre, music, and art installations - delves into issues of memory, displacement, and the impact of technology and media on modern life.
Egoyan has won numerous prizes at international film festivals, including the Grand Prix and International Critics’ Awards from the Cannes Film Festival, two Academy Award® nominations, and numerous other honors. His films have won twenty-five Genies - including three Best Film Awards. Egoyan has a long association with the Cannes Film Festival, with most of his features being presented in Official Selection (EXOTICA, THE SWEET HEREAFTER, FELICIA’S JOURNEY, ARARAT, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES, ADORATION, THE CAPTIVE) winning five major awards at this prestigious event. His latest feature film, GUEST OF HONOUR, premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival, with other festival screenings (Toronto, Busan, London) following in 2019.
Despite his illustrious career, I met a disarmingly humble being. He is, above all, a creation enthusiast. He is on his way to the airport, has only a few minutes, and still takes the time to talk to me about his passion for film. We just sat on a bench right by his car in the parking lot. His soothing presence makes cars in the street sound like waves in the ocean. The conversation flows effortlessly.
I can see his eyes sparkle behind his sunglasses before he answers...
-Beside the beauty of all the granularity, and the vulnerability of the media itself, it's also this question of the scarcity.
When I made Calendar, we went to Armenia with a very small budget. We could only take 10 rolls of 16mm film. Each roll was 10 minutes, so I was very aware of this question of time- having to make very specific choices.
That film contrasts the material shot on film, with the videos. There are a lot of videos in that film, and with videos I never thought about time: I was just shooting tapes and tapes. So, the contrast in that movie is the sense of commitment film has: this conscious application of vision. It's something very considered and focused, as opposed to shooting on tape, which is much more spontaneous, so less aware of time. For me, film is a time based medium, where you can see it physically: it's a very physical thing when you are looking at the film, looking at the frames, looking at the 24 images!
It's also this notion of apprenticeship: starting as a young filmmaker using 8mm film, graduating to 16mm going to 35mm.... each one had that level, that gradation of what that texture meant.
“Of course, digital is more democratic, but as a result it also feels like there is less consideration”
The enigmatic Egoyan ended our interview with a laugh, a laugh that suggests we could discuss for a long time the almost meditative aspects of using film, but time was running out.
Atom Egoyan always seems to be in movement-I stayed there, immobile and moved by our brief encounter. I had to learn more about this fascinating artist's work with film...
STEENBECKETT – Tribute to memory using 2000 feet of film
Steenbeckett is an installation that emerged from atom Egoyan's channel 4 production of Krapp’s last tape by Samuel Beckett. Krapp. British actor john hurt, spends his 69th birthday listening to a tape of himself aged 39, in which he describes reviewing a recording from his twenties. Krapp moves from reverie to contempt, making a new recording in which he rails against his younger self. medium: 3 rooms. video. celluloid film installation with Steenbeck editing suite, pulleys, and sprockets. archive room with furniture, film canisters, books, and papers.
8 1/2 SCREENS - Created for or the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto
“(....) the installation became a deconstruction of a key scene from one of the greatest films about filmmaking (and film watching) ever made. By the end of this scene, as the director’s wife Luisa leaves the theatre, the marriage is effectively over. Marcello is metaphorically hung out to dry, and so the billowing sheets—a recurring motif in Fellini’s cinema—became an essential part of the installation. 8 1/2 Screens is a fantasy fueled by one of the greatest imaginations of cinema’s golden age. I offer it with deep respect, more than a little nostalgia, and tremendous excitement about the opening of this magnificent new home for a cherished institution”. - Atom Egoyan
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