The first installment of David Schwartz’s new bimonthly series “Songs of the Unsung,” featuring great but neglected films in the FMC collection, focuses on the formally inventive, playful, politically engaged, sensuous, and wryly comic work of Canadian artist and filmmaker Joyce Wieland.
Two of Wieland's greatest films, which grapple with questions of national identity, borders, and journeys, will be shown in this ever-timely double-feature.
Wieland lived in New York in the 1960s. Rat Life and Diet in North America (1969, 14 mins., 16mm) is a political allegory starring rats (played by gerbils) who are being held as political prisoners by a cat. The film follows their dramatic escape to Canada, which at the time offered asylum to American war protestors resisting the draft. Jonas Mekas described it as “maybe the best (or richest) political movie around.”
Wieland’s first feature film, La Raison Avant La Passion (1969, 80 mins., 16mm) is a beautiful and deeply ambivalent study of the Canadian landscape that seemingly embraces Wieland’s love of her own country while also raising questions about political idealism. A collage of sorts, the film combines landscape views that traverse the vast expanse of the country, recurring images of the Canadian flag, computer-generated scrambling of the letters in Prime Minister Trudeau’s phrase “REASON OVER PASSION,” and degraded news footage of Trudeau (and of the filmmaker herself). The film’s “meaning” is open-ended, and it is anchored by a physical beauty and playful structuralism that make it a pleasure to watch. -David Schwartz
Film programmer David Schwartz will introduce the program and lead a discussion.
David Schwartz is the former Chief Curator of Museum of the Moving Image, where he worked for 33 years. He specializes in independent and experimental cinema, teaches film history in the graduate production program at NYU, is the host of the new podcast ScreenLit about books on cinema, and is the founder of Cinema Projects (www.cinemaprojects.net).