SLIFF 2010 Review: VISIONARIES – We Are Movie Geeks



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For many, VISIONARIES will feel like an incomprehensible documentary about a group of strange filmmakers who made incomprehensible films. For those who feel they may fit this description, this is your friendly “heads up’ to enter into the film with an open mind and uninhibited curiosity. Every film featured in VISIONARIES has some meaning or purpose.

Workman interviews several groundbreaking and influential filmmakers of the experimental and avant-garde “genre” including Jonas Mekas, who serves as the film’s tour guide into the minds of cinematic artists like Stan Brakhage, Man Ray, Su Friedrich and Kenneth Anger. David Lynch offers insights as well, one of the most interesting is when he explains how when sound and images are projected together, the viewer’s mind involuntarily begins to construct a narrative. With this concept, it may be assumed that the viewer is the storyteller and each film may ultimately have an infinite number of stories it tells.

VISIONARIES contains over 100 clips and excerpts from films with a variety of styles and executions. A significant portion of the film delves into the motion picture works of Andy Warhol, who cannot be dismissed as an influential force in the avant-garde. Mekas recalls memories and insights into Warhol’s films to accompany archival interviews with Warhol himself.

While some of the most recognizable films featured in VISIONARIES would include Andy Warhol’s SLEEP and EAT — both of which feature an uncut, unmoving shot of the title action – or, Salvador Dali’s UN CHIEN ANDALOU, infamously known for it’s image of an eye being sliced open with a straight razor. However, these films only break the surface of a vast and fascinating array of experimental works of cinematic art.

The avant-garde movement in film is an exploration of creativity and self-expression and deserves exposure to the general public. This is, more than anything else, what VISIONARIES offers… a chance for a greater audience to experience the typically hidden and unappreciated world of motion pictures outside of the traditional Hollywood narrative structure. Near the end of the film, a brief series of quick interviews with people standing in line for a film festival illustrates how having the courage and curiosity to seek out films outside our comfort zone is not only enjoyable, but necessary to fully understand the deeper possibilities of the cinematic arts.

VISIONARIES played during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday, November 20th, followed by a free documentary filmmaking seminar with director Chuck Workman on Sunday, November 21st. While a release date has not been established, those who missed VISIONARIES during SLIFF can “save” the film into their Netflix queue and will be notified once the DVD is available.

Hopeless film enthusiast; reborn comic book geek; artist; collector; cookie connoisseur; curious to no end