“Life has an extra of which means”—so somebody says early on in He Thought He Died, an experimental function that premiered this week within the adventurous Wavelengths strand of the Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition (Tiff). The road recurs on the finish of the movie as properly. It’s the perform of artwork, the speaker continues, to pare away this extra, to subtract from life and thereby make clear it.
It is a putting rivalry within the context of He Thought He Died, directed by Isiah Media, whose personal artwork, characterised by associative and abrasive enhancing schemes, torrents of heterogeneously sourced sounds and pictures, possesses that very same lifelike extra. In Medina’s 2015 breakthrough 88:88, a rapid-fire assemblage of footage of his community of household and pals evoked the textures of financial precarity in an age of digital abundance, and the glitchy and unpredictable impression of being a passenger in another person’s notion. Inventing the Future(2020) is an essay movie tailored from the same-titled Verso manifesto, wielding Medina’s syncretic model within the service of a futurist imaginative and prescient for a post-work Leftist utopia.
Like a figurative painter, Media appears to be worrying at his medium, pulling it towards and pushing it away from illustration concurrently: nimble digital cameras are attentive to gentle and helpful for jotting down impressions of on a regular basis expertise, whereas enhancing and post-production software program enable for radically disjunctive chopping and distorted image-making. And with He Thought He Died, Medina trains his stressed gaze on the previous and way forward for visible artwork immediately, as each illustration and commodity. The movie was made with intensive entry to Kingston, Ontario’s Agnes Etherington Artwork Centre, a part of Queen’s College, with its assortment of Rembrandts and First Nations artefacts, seen each on the partitions and in climate-controlled stacks of basement storage. Medina himself seems within the movie alongside a few of his personal Ab-Ex daubings-in-progress; as he works, amidst a deluge of different audio-visual knowledge, photos tackle the plotless Expressionist materiality of paint layered on canvas.
Tiff’s program notes would have you ever consider that He Thought He Died is a type of artwork heist film, by which Medina liberates his work from the establishment that warehouses it; that is very deceptive, although ghostly superimpositions of the painter wandering the bowels of the museum do recommend traces of a person sensibility ready to be emancipated. A recurrent motif depicting artwork handlers at work culminates with a point-of-view shot from the angle of a portray because it’s entombed in its (literal, metaphorical) packaging.
Medina’s stream-of-consciousness jumps between dwelling movies set to atonal improvisation, rhythmic workouts set to Bach or Wagner, vaporware laptop animations and violent strobing results; his dialogue scenes are equally discursive. Two figures (“characters” is a stretch) sit reverse one another in a sterile business-class resort room, slinging one-liners at one another—about rights and duties, genius and goodness, junk and discourse. One says: “Taking pictures close-ups is ‘maintaining’, it’s non-thought.”
Medina is clearly influenced by the communist faculty of mental montage, didactically and propulsively producing which means from juxtaposition; it might be overpromising to name his nakedly imitative sloganeering “Godardian” (even when Medina is equally Mao-curious), however the open-ended circulation of his dialectics is difficult and complicated in ways in which really feel related. He Thought He Died looks like a feed, on the finish of which it’s onerous to recollect the place, precisely, you got here into contact with a socialist meme or a fairly image, or to ensure that you’re recalling it precisely because it appeared.
All movies, particularly non-narrative movies, educate you the best way to watch them; Medina’s directions usually quantity to a type of aversion remedy, bopping you on the nostril with a rolled-up newspaper each time he catches you sniffing for linear causality. In a single scene, the obvious sale of a number of work is transacted in dialogue completely warped by voice-box mumbling. However he’s portray in broad strokes—step again a bit of, observe the high-rises out the window, and take into consideration an ever-shifting matrix of artwork and capital.
He Thought He Died, 13 September at 10pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition