Bicycle Hi-5s For Joel Schlemowitz


You are total strangers, have never even seen each other before, and yet as you ride towards the man further up the road, at the very last moment, you both know the right thing to do at this point, the only thing to do, is to stretch out your palms, and as your bike whizzes past, let a satisfying skin-slap be heard by the late night congregators on the footpath nearby. You keep riding, don’t even turn around, that was then, this is now, and now you are on a different part of the road, and you are grinning.

Some storyboarded narrative film could try, but would have a hard time conveying what the rest of your bicycle ride actually felt like. Not what it looked like, but how it felt, the shift of internal gears, the slight electric buzz that comes with being in the right place at the right time. Nope, your best cinematic hope for conveying those feelings, would be to forgo the usual plot devices, transcend the usual visual techniques, and harness visual surprise as a way of describing your own experience.

Which leads us, down an unnecessarily windy garden path to the back shed of cinematic tinkerer and visual explorer, Joel Schlemowitz. If in doubt of just how busy Joel has been, how dirtily his fingers have been covered in film chemicals over the years, check his dot com, for a huge list of short experimental films, ‘cinepoems’ that explore the everyday in efforts to reach beyond them., bless their independent distributor socks, have been amassing a gigantic collection of experimental DVDs for distribution and recently added a triple-disc set of Joel’s work to their swelling catalog. “Joel Schlemowitz : short experimental films” gives what it suggests, 45 of them even, showcasing the scope and terrain of Joel’s work over the years. Definitely some room for improvement with the DVD authoring though – differences between the booklet and what appears on each disc, no easy menu that allows continuous play of all films, only a clumsy bottleneck of an interface to access each film and as it turned out on my copy – disc 3 containing all the same films as disc one, despite what was printed on it. But that’s not the point… that’s computer accountant land. We need the smell of a pine forest, a chimney with smoke rising out of it, homemade window sills, tool benches, vintage equipment, a film explorer’s den.

Disco One : Short Experimental Films 1 Through 20
Some favourites?
Abrasions – a bound and blindfolded man stands before the camera, and the film of this event is slowly scratched to oblivion.
Bacchanale – Characters wearing masks, that moment before a party goes to another level. Warbling, perspective warping camera.
Bagatekke Biolique – A animated beating heart, various anatomical imagery filmed, and the film itself hand painted to create motion through a body, complete with sound effects.
Bagatlle in Neon – Playful long exposure explorations of city lights, then hand painted over with a soft limited palette. (Technicolour vibes! )
Doris’ Garden – A baby’s voice wandering, a song. Buddhist garden statues and images baby superimposed over explorations into a near junglish backyard.
Extemporized – Wild camera movement wandering in a city of snow, sound effects added to suit mime artists who are performing in various parts of the city.
Eye Music – Silent film zooming in on an old turntable, using hand-painted splashes to convey the sonic scratch of the jumping needle.

Disc 2 – Short Experimental Films 21 through 40
Invitation to a Voyage – fast overlaid shapes elegant silhouettes extravagant fonts… solarised image of a naked man… zoom in…
slowly avalanching sound… curious little piece.. exactly what should be found somewhere on an experimental video compilation.
Little Nothings – poem by Wanda Phipps.. nicely overlaid footage, on top of the poet reading her work… reaching for cinepoetry…
Morris Engel Time Sculpture – gorgeous close-ups of weird timepieces… visual aesthetics associated with that weird human trait of measuring time.
the closer we zoom in, the louder the sounds get, until finally we zoom out, sound softens, and the piece’s time has run out.
Pillowbook – Black and white scene. the book is opened – we get red tinted flickery imagery suggesting entangled limbs, skin sliding over skin, panning vertically fast, images overlaid densely enough so that what feels lurid and pornographic, is also able to wash over the eyes like some gentle breeze.

Poem for the Past – Film strips twisted, decayed, overlaid
Purple Candle Poem – colour painted film, scratches, overlaid on footage of candles… lot more compelling than that suggests… flair for composition, motion… colour control… limited palette…
Reverie – more candles, statues in candlelight, old classical nude drawings given a perspective warping… offset by exotic string and percussion instruments in an echo chamber.. a hand, a desk, spectacles..
Silo – time lapse… of people at some filmic event, old projection systems, complete with burnt holes in film, accompanied by various laptop noodlers, guitarists… hey look – its an audiovisual happening… lying in the grass, the vividness of the colours in the outdoor projections are flanked deliciously by the silhouetted tree branches…

übel – fast flickering overlays of machinery turned abstract – metal scraping sounds in background hypnotic in their choreography over time… a pendulum of light playing on machinery to form shapeshifting shadows… shapes blended in.

Disc 3 – Collaborations and Experimental Documentaries – sounded interesting in theory, but in practice, turned out to contain the same data as disc one, which is a shame, because one of the shorts, Teslamania, like all good films exploring the aesthetics of tesla coils and violent bursts of electricity probably deserve a good viewing. (( UPDATE :: Joel writes in to say “This was a problem on a small number of “rush” pre-release copies and the problem was corrected before the the DVD collection went into distribution. ” ))

Close the door, leave the shed, the cine-laboratory concoctions still bubbling away, smell the air, blink anew at the world and wander away. And if you want to hi-5 Joel..

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