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9.16.2014

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: brouillard passage #14


There are many films that caught people's attention in TIFF this year and became the subjects of top 10 lists but I decided to focus on an interesting experimental short I read about by way of Daniel Kasman's mubi notebook TIFF 2014 entries. It was the avant garde short, brouillard passage #14, directed by Alexandre Larose and the sublime little film caught my eye as well (I only got to see the trailer which I have embedded below). 
Kasman: Like many avant-garde films, I don't have any idea how Alexandre Larose made brouillard passage #14the film which opened the first program, curated around body and camera performances. I think he filmed multiple times a walk along a foliage-lined pathway until reaching a lake and superimposed those images of the corridor upon themselves—but I'm not sure. How often are you not sure of what you're watching during the festival's dramatic features? It's this kind of destabilization and lack of, to put it bluntly, presumed supremacy over films we watch that I so look forward to in Wavelengths, where even the features, like Jean-Luc Godard's, so refreshingly put me at a point of disadvantage, curiosity and wonder rather than patronizing advantage.  
I can tell you instead how Larose's short looked and felt like: it looked like a gauzy, sunny dream but felt like a lugubrious nightmare from which one cannot escape. Plunging through this nature-de-naturalized pathway at the speed of molasses, you can't tell if you are slowly swimming forward or, horribly, sinking through this pastoral smear: the images atop one another cause a normal sense of moving through both space and time to fall in upon itself, creating an undulating, rippling spatial movement. Is it fluidity, a gluey continuousness I'm experiencing, like Abbas Kiarostami's slow, real-time passage through terracotta-colored corridors in Certified Copy? Or am I having a kind of quantum vision, the ability to see multiple versions of the same space and time all at once, clouding and layering my perspective? I know not what to call any of it, really, but the experience was special.



Having watched the trailer... I can only imagine how weird and trippy it must have been to watch on screen. Since Kasman did me a solid and exposed me to the film, I figured I should do him a solid and find out how it was done.  
So... how did Larose make this work of art?
Lucky for us, studio-beat asked him that very question.
Would 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. 
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.
Ah so Larose used an optical printer!?! 
Well let's see how those work; for those interested in optical printing for their films, read on... below is some how-to info and check out the filmmaker toolkit's post-production section for more on these traditional ol' skool special effects.

Horizon's look at how ILM used optical printers to create effects


Using the Sequencer on an JK Optical Printer K-104


Using a wetgate optical printer to restore film




And if you like this kind of work but can't see brouillard passage yet, watch these experimental films using optical printers, in the meantime.

Don't ever say I didn't look out for you, Daniel Kasman.

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Behind the visuals, a vision.