Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Presence of Sebastian Wesman (Brockway)

The Presence of Sebastian Wesman
By  Tropic Sprocket critic Ian Brockway

Experimental film has a long history going back to the birth of film itself from the fanciful sets of Georges Melies, the surrealism of Man  Ray, or the poetry of Maya Deren.  Without the spark of experimentation and independent film, our screens and our eyes would be anemic. With this awareness, I am happy to report that several poetic haiku by the filmmaker and composer Sebastian Wesman are being shown around Europe, Asia,  and South America. These seven films are haunting and mystical meditations on the globe, and the human footprint, be it left in celebration, ambivalence or neutral occupation.

Wesman, born in Argentina, has an indigenous feel for his subjects of earth, sky, flesh and metal. His lyrical  compositions that accompany each piece  are fluttery and winged in their own orbit. Taken together, the scores compose a sonic gestalt that create a language of birds.

  In "My Friend", Wesman's tribute to Tarkovsky, we are in the woods. A single tree is in closeup with all the textured detail of a Käthe Kollwitz woodcut. Then we watch as it impressionistically fades into rain, becoming a terrestrial abstract mist as if imagined by the painter Chuck Close. We see each drop of rain on a cellular level, transformed and digitized by an extraterrestrial computer. Set this with the transfixing voice of the Estonian poet Ellom, (along with the Pre-Raphaelite form of Executive Producer Anneli Kõressaar)  and what arises seemingly out of the air, is an organic tribute to a cinematic saint.

Next, "All the Winds" might quote Denmark to some, but Wesman's violin makes this piece a universal rhythm on the power of nature. In dark Expressionist streaks, Wesman's winds cycle with an almost Luciferic choas, sweeping and swirling within a mad Walpurgis Nacht. The images are fork-tailed and manic. There is fury in Fūjin here ( the Japanese god of the wind) as all elements mix with a wild and numinous motion.

In "The Invisibles" we are put in a white industrial corridor (which could be a mall or a subway) with an anonymous man. No one acknowledges the man who shuffles and drifts as several people pass him without a glance. As the man is surrounded and almost swallowed up by his claustrophobic space of silence and seconds, this selection recalls the nihilism of Samuel Beckett and the art of George Tooker.

"The Day After" suggests a melted and pressurized landscape where bulldozers and earth movers might spin out of order and attack random bystanders while others hurry to work with a neutral deliberateness. The train and shops struggle to carry on as usual but the sky wilts overhead while people mill about like pigeons with shell shock.

No matter what the cause, life grinds forth.

The last three films employ a sparse and minimal iconography which build to a transcendent score on the movement of nature and the static satellite of pop culture. In "The Red Bridge" we move along the red planks only to dissolve in a field of brilliant flowers ala Warhol. "The Electric Garden of Marilyn" brings us into the environment of a carnival. A  neon Ferris wheel is saturated with a fresco of Marilyn Monroe. The portrait is either a Buddhist Mandala or a Tex-Mex shrine from The Day of the Dead, depending on your point of view. The blinding lights make the famous face indistinguishable, melting it into formless runs of color.

The remaining "Elemental" describes a wind turbine as a possible metallic savior. With great arcing blades, the turbines are  avian and majestic. Are the machines our last hope or are they signs of a higher intelligence driven by winds of indifference?

Whatever the case, a Taoist vibration spins  within as it is does  with every piece in this selection, turning upon the eye  with an Orientalist delicacy and potent design.

(c) 2013 Ian Brockway
Write Ian at

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