A Shroud to Hold the Light: films by John Price

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the sounding lines are obsolete (John Price, 2009)Double Negative Collective presents:
A Shroud to Hold the Light: films by John Price
Saturday February, 16th 2013, 21h
Cinémathèque québécoise, Claude-Jutra Theatre
335, De Maisonneuve Blvd East, Montréal, Québec, H2X 1K1
Filmmaker In Person

In a career spanning over two decades, Toronto-based filmmaker John Price has created an impressive body of work in 16mm and 35mm. Price’s remarkably prolific creative output places him among the finest voices working today in the tradition of diaristic filmmaking.

An avid chronicler of the quotidian, Price documents the intimate details of his personal life. His careful observation captures precious moments of domestic events – the birth of his child (naissance #1), family trips and Thanksgiving celebrations (Party #4, Camp #2), the growth of his children (domashnyee kino / home movie). The episodic fragments he collects often form a series of thematically linked vignettes (Sea Series #5, #7, #8 and #11), and one of the pleasures his films offer derives from viewing them in ensemble rather than in isolation.

His films, however, extend far beyond the simple memorialization of the everyday; they also foreground his engagement in aesthetic experimentation with light, colour, grains and textures, functioning as the records of the filmmaker’s meditation on the medium he chooses to work with. His filmmaking grew out of his early interest in traditional darkroom photography. The tactile experience of working with physical material constitutes the essential part of his craft. Experimenting with unconventional processing techniques that produce unpredictable photochemical reactions on the fragile emulsion, Price creates images that have unique tonal and textural qualities, imbued with timeless beauty and quiet lyricism.

Price is an artisanal celluloid practitioner par excellence – most of his films are made entirely by himself, from shooting and hand-processing to cutting and printing. He often uses old cameras such as a Russian-made hand-crank 35mm movie camera and outdated film stock and short ends. His frequent use of inexpensive print stock is an economical as well as formal choice. He knows how to make ends meet with limited resources available to him, and embraces the constraints as integral part of the formal aesthetics of his work.

In films such as View of the Falls from the Canadian Side and Making Pictures, Price invites us to reflect on the very act of documenting. View of the Falls from the Canadian Side makes a direct reference to the first motion picture of Niagara Falls made in 1896 by William Heise using a portable 35mm movie camera Edison fabricated. Relying essentially on the same technology of the period, Price makes his own version of it and re-contextualizes the documenting process in the present tense. Magnificent black and white images of the Falls are juxtaposed with images of modern-day tourists flocking around to photograph the Falls with their digital cameras, eliciting a curious contrast and irony. Making Pictures, on the other hand, was shot in China during the location shooting of Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary film on the photographer Edward Burtynsky, Manufactured Landscapes, for which Price worked as assistant to the cinematographer Peter Mettler. In his free time between shoots, he captured with a super-8 camera fleeting impressions of the exotic places and people who inhabit there, and the film crew at work. In Price’s skillful hands, these casual mementos are transformed into a self-reflexive, critical commentary on the nature of the documenting process seen through the eye of an independent filmmaker whose approach is diametrically opposed to that of Burtynsky’s.

Besides making his own work, Price has frequently collaborated with opera and dance companies creating film projections. He is also active as a cinematographer, working with directors such as Bruce Macdonald, Peter Lynch, Annette Mangaard and Mike Hoolboom, among others. Price makes his first solo appearance in Montreal with this two-day retrospective A Shroud to Hold the Light: Films of John Price.

Daïchi Saïto and Malena Szlam

Double Negative

This event is made possible by the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

- fire #3 (John Price, 2003, 3 min, 16 mm, SD)
- Wreck (John Price, 1997, 4 min, 16 mm, SD)
- Nation (John Price, 1997, 5 min, 16 mm, SD)
- naissance #1 (John Price, 2007, 10 min, 16 mm, SD)
- Party #4 (John Price, 2006, 3 min, 35 mm, SD)
- Camp #2 (John Price, 2007, 8 min, 35 mm, SD)
- the boy who died (John Price, 2007, 8 min, 35 mm, SD)
- gun/play (John Price, 2006, 9 min, 35 mm, SD)
- the sounding lines are obsolete (John Price, 2009, 10 min, 16 mm, SD)
- naissance #2 (John Price, 2012, 3 min, 35 mm scope, SD)