Editorial – Lab Competition 2022
A Rail of Light
A white screen. The festival is back in the theaters, and the pure light of the projector will once again illuminate the audience. It’s about time!
With Train Again, Peter Tscherkassy re-enters the light by taking us back to the beginning, to a time when the Lumière brothers filmed the arrival of a train. The big screen experience is always something to behold with the Viennese master of avant-garde cinema, who offers a radical reinterpretation in CinemaScope: a train arrives and collides with its own reflection.
The events quickly unfold, the images spiral out of control and lose their certainty, the soundtrack crosses over the film perforations, color positive film turns negative, the material is gutted as he even gives (among others) a nod to Kubrick’s The Shining.
His return to the competition after several selections (for example, Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine, which received a Special Jury Mention in the 2006 Lab Competition and is part of the 20th Anniversary of the Lab box set, see page 92) is almost logically accompanied by the return of Bill Morrison (2014 Lab Juror) with whom he shares a love of analog film.
It is by forgetting pre-existing forms and through distortion that we can see new forms appear; the pure poetry of Morrison’s Her Violet Kiss is marvellous; what Mallarmé writes about Manet applies perfectly to his film: “the subject throbs with motion, light and life”.
The documentary film has been at the heart of the Lab for many years now. This year’s creation of a César Award for the best short film celebrating this genre highlights its importance. The directors convey the background noises of their time, such as Vincent Le Port and his film La marche de Paris à Brest, in which, in just a few frames, he succeeds in the feat of capturing the humanity of the countryside, or Jean-Baptiste Alazard who reveals in Saint Jean-Baptiste ten years of life through a very intimate diary, and in madly poetic fashion succeeds in opening up completely to the world and the surrounding society.
There is an extremely varied representation of work through numerous documentaries in this selection: A Day’s Work by Max Kerkhoff conveys a very plastic approach at the beginning and stunning images of beauty, then focuses in closely on the subject to reveal its dramatic significance, or Arbete åt alla!, authored by the Swedish duo Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck, who brilliantly offer an implacable yet humorous demonstration of work alienation and concentration of wealth. Their previous film, Hopptornet, 2017 Audience Prize and 2017 Lab Competition Special Jury Prize, is also included in the anniversary box set.
Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan, with Happiness is a Journey, portray the daily life of newspaper deliverers on Christmas Eve with a skillful use of split-screen; with them we penetrate the heart of a large American city and its suburbs. Iron and Oil by Swiss director Pierre Schlesser brings together the countryside and the world of work with infinite modesty, lingering with his camera on centuries-old gestures. Through these films there is a wealth that invites humanity to reconsider the way it looks at itself, and that we urgently need to rediscover.
Lotfi Achour, juror in 2018, selected both nationally and internationally, and a director of feature films, is present for the first time in the Lab Competition with Blind Spot: this animated documentary intelligently uses the freedom that this genre allows without taking anything away from the burning force of the era of Ben Ali, Tunisian autocrat overthrown during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Another regular of the festival, accompanied by the Film Commission – he shot his documentary Capucine in Auvergne, and even stunned Claude Duty on the Cocteau Hall stage with great blows to the head with a stale baguette – Luis Nieto shocks the eyes with Swallow the Universe, a colorful and odorous epic that revisits the codes of manga, Nieto-style, while appropriating the satirical use of the Chôjû-Giga that is so dear to Ghibli Studios. All this will delight anime fans as well as fans of Colin Stetson, who brings us the music.
Another nice surprise in this selection is Le Boug Doug, a UFO (unidentified film object) directed by Théo Jollet, which offers a surprising mixture of hip-hop culture, a touch of fantasy and a few nods to The Wire. We delightfully follow the misadventures of a clique of underground rappers in this village in the center of France.
In her book On Connection, at a time when social networks push us to perpetually represent ourselves, where apathy overcomes us to the point of making us forget who we are, Kae Tempest calls our attention to the urgent importance of reconnecting – to ourselves, to others, to reality, so that the vital spark of creation may spring forth. The richness of this 2022 Lab selection reminds us of the value of creation as a powerful tool for sharing and reinvention.
Facts and figures
17 countries represented
5 live action
2 experimental films
1 animation documentary