2 Reviews by Barbara Sternberg

 

"Back to God's Country", Can. 1919, produced by and starring Nell Shipman. A restored silver nitrate film print was shown at Ontario Cinematheque, Friday, Feb.8, 2002. It was spectacular. The image, tinted sepia for indoor scenes and cyan for exteriors, glowed from within. And the details in the landscape, right down to the smallest twigs, were as finely drawn lines. There were also fabulous scenes of the North's snow-white vastness. The acting, while more stylized and exaggerated in comparison to acting style today, was nonetheless engaging. The audience cheered Nell on and murmured ahhhs at the bear pup antics. But what surprised and pleased me most were the values depicted in this antique film: environmental and animal rights (PETA should see this film) it is Nell who jumps into the river, rescuing her father's body from the raging current and later, it is Nell who threatens the 'bad guy' with a gun, shooting him in the shoulder, to get her husband and herself to safety. She then convinces hubby to move from the city back to the (God's, if you will) country where they live in peace and harmony with the local critters. AMEN to that.

 

 

Family Album by Yvonne Singer opened Feb.9 at Redhead Gallery.

Images from home movies are isolated in circular frames like an old-fashioned photo album. The format reminds me of early cinema's use of the iris, and of Joyce Wieland's film Birds at Sunrise, which made beautiful use of this circular telescoping of small, fragile birds on a windowsill in winter. Singer's has used the round frames of her eyeglasses in previous works. In Singer's installation we see a family (hers?) seated around a dinner table, the everyday talk repeated and bits of it extracted as text, things like 'the avocados are good' and 'some people use horse shampoo because it makes the hair strong.' In one shot a light smile plays on the face of an older man when he sees he's being filmed; in another shot of three girls, the one in the middle is pregnant. Then a shot of an old man and a baby. Life and death within the mundaneness of living.

 

Originally published in Lola Magazine #12, Summer 2002