Microscope Gallery is happy to welcome Paris-based filmmaker Emmanuel Lefrant to the gallery for a special screening of his works on film. The program Underground — which is also the title of Lefrant’s first film and an indication of where most of his filmmaking takes place, literally or figuratively — features eight short films spanning fifteen years, nearly the artist’s complete filmography.
Lefrant, who is also a champion of celluloid film and director of Paris-based experimental film distributor Light Cone, engages in his mostly camera-less work with the filmstrip much like a blank miniature canvas, or a densely textured object to pass in front of a beam and translate into light. The end results of the techniques applied to film such as chemical treatments, Pollock-like paint drippings, and burials in different types of grounds, are hypnotic moving image works where the realms of cinema and abstract painting meet.
“The point is, paradoxically, to reach the extreme of realistic representation by way of an abstract image […] Every single curve, every single asperity that leaves a mark on the film is the movement of time itself, a trace of its passage. The ‘secret forms’ of emulsion are unveiled, and emphasize the materiality of celluloid, and the processes that reveal the image.” — Emmanuel Lefrant
Lefrant will be attendance and available for Q&A following the screening.
- Underground (Emmanuel Lefrant, Super 8mm to 16mm film, color, sound, 2001, 8 minutes)
Roland Barthes used to say «Aptly named, film (pellicula) is but skin without a gape, without an opening, without a wound». With direct cinema, this formula, which became axiomatic because of the flawless imagery found in traditional cinema, no longer verifies. The ‘smooth’ film of the image is metamorphosed into fragile skin. Contrary to scientific cinematography from the beginning of the century, the micro-organisms are not re-created (by being filmed) but rather reproduced directly on the film (frozen on the film strip, but made to move on screen by the driving mechanism of the projector). The point is, paradoxically, to reach the extreme of realistic representation by way of an abstract image, by actually showing the micro-organisms, with no other mediator than the lens of the projector. Every single curve, every single asperity that leaves a mark on the film is the movement of time itself, a trace of its passage. The ‘secret forms’ of emulsion are unveiled, and emphasize the materiality of celluloid, and the processes that reveal the image.
Proposing further evidence that film material is not inert, this film was made by literally burying pieces of black film during different periods of time and in different kinds of grounds (soil, snow, mud, etc.).
- All Over (Emmanuel Lefrant, Super 8mm to 16mm film, color, sound, 2001, 7 minutes)
Prior to any other treatment, the emulsion is covered with layers of chemical products, resulting in a black filmstrip. “The black leader can be anticipated as Malevitch’s white painting: a space in which everything is possible, the space of absolute potentiality and virtuality.” This is because cinema, contrary to painting, gives light to its own image, via the lamp projector. This is not about covering a blank surface with forms and colors since they already exist on the black film. Whilst ALL OVER is a film made without “instrumentation” (like a camera), it also differs from direct films in that the film remains untouched by any tool (not even the hand). As in dripping, materials and color are spontaneously laid down on the film in semi-controlled gestures, which create a shower of colored dots. The soundtrack functions according to the same principle: the sound, in all its expressions, is formed using one single formal element.
- Still Frames (Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, silent, 2002, 3 minutes)
STILL FRAMES is a laboratory film, conceived while I was finishing SARABAN. Indeed the two films were produced from the same images. The aim was not only to prove that the same source of image can generate two different films but also to highlight the incidence of light on color.
- Saraban (Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, sound, 2002, 6 minutes)
Work on speed, rhythms, flickers and color, whose «main tendency should be to serve Expression as fully as possible». The idea for this film was born during experiments on the film strip, with the Nominoë collective.
- Overall (Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, sound, 2006, 5 minutes)
«Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences, there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.» H.P. Lovecraft, Beyond the Wall of Sleep
OVERALL continues the project which began as ALL OVER. The creative process has become inverted since the primary material is now oil paint. The original film was painted with J. Pollock’s dripping technique on a transparent film strip and then all colors were inverted in lab with a contact printer. The soundtrack was made using a signal processing environment called «Pure Data», calculating in real time the color density of the image.
- Blitz (Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, sound, 2006, 6 minutes)
This is a deserted black space that one tries to fill in. To the point of becoming totally submerged in color. One explores the chromatic circle, by turning around it meticulously. And by vertical unreeling, a process specific to cinema. BLITZ turns a page opened two years ago in Canada. I started to work on line patterns with the collective PHYLM, for a performance, and then for an installation. Once back in France, I re-explored this figure with the Nominoë collective, and the performance LI[GHT]NES.
- Parties Visible Et Invisible D’Un Ensemble Sous Tension (Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, sound, 2009, 7 minutes)-
Africa, 2003: the mechanisms of memory.
I shot the image of a landscape and buried simultaneously a film strip in the same place where the sequence was shot: the emulsion, the victim of erosion is thus subjected to biochemical degradation. The result of these natural processes of decay are then conserved in the state of their dissolution. Those two images, and their negative versions, are then entangled together thanks to double exposure and bi-packing techniques.
These landscapes in fusion, it’s the logic of a world that reveals itself. A bipolar world, where invisible takes shape with the visible, where the first dissolves itself into the second and vice versa.
- I Don’t Think I Can See An Island (Christopher Becks & Emmanuel Lefrant, 16mm film, color, sound, 2016, 4 minutes 10 seconds)
A Film of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures.
Emmanuel Lefrant lives and works in Paris, where he makes films, all self-produced, exclusively on celluloid. The films lie on the idea of representing, of revealing an invisible world (the secret forms of emulsion), a nature that one does not see. In 2000, he founded with Nicolas Berthelot, Alexis Constantin and Stéphane Courcy the collective Nominoë. Together they created performances that have been presented in many venues including the Pompidou Centre (Paris, France), the Serralvès Foundation (Porto, Portugal), and the Edinburgh International Film Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland), among others.