Look, I just had surgery a few days ago. I'm still all doped up, quite legitimately, but I'm still going to give some impressions on VIFF fare this week. These may not be the most cogent reviews I've ever written! First one up is Be Still, a BC-shot film about Victoria surrealist photographer Hannah Maynard, as played above by Piercey Dalton; the actual Maynard is shown below.
The press release for Be Still, by Latvian-to-Canadian filmmaker Elizabeth Lazebnik, says that the story:
takes place in 19th century BC and delves into the mind of an artist whose shattering grief leads to the creation of striking new artforms. All but erased from history, 40 years before Dali and the Surrealist movement began, professional Canadian photographer Hannah Maynard was perfecting surrealist art techniques in her Victoria, BC studio. The film, which took 17 years to make, is a work of passion and dedication from filmmaker Elizabeth Lazebnik. With 15 short films and three TIFF premieres under her belt, Lazebnik is proud to debut her first feature in BC where Maynard lived and worked.
In a way, this film was perfect for my bleary, confused, slightly damaged state of mind, post-surgery. It bent my brain in very compelling ways, and occasionally I found myself lulled into dreams that interacted with what was onscreen, like I was being lured into another mental state altogether by the logics of the film's construction. Call it "high" praise - the film is really quite skilled at evoking altered states of consciousness in the viewer, through associative shifts between images... It is a bit too reserved in its pacing and serious about what it does for me to think the filmmakers would relish my use of the word "mindfuck" to describe it, but it does fuck with the mind a bit, in ways that I found intriguing and surprisingly effective, always using its tricks to evoke Maynard's confused thinking (I initially thought that the sheer number of visual gimmicks in Lazebnik's toolkit would throw me off, but none of them are used for their own sake, and seem perfectly subordinated to her filmic purposes).