La Région Centrale


I would have posted this yesterday if it hadn’t been for the news about Ray Bradbury, Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale (1971) and Tony Hill’s Downside Up being related in my head if nowhere else. For anyone interested in experimental cinema Michael Snow occupies a key position with a pair of films that aspire to a kind of epic formality: Wavelength (1967), his 45-minute zoom into a photograph at the opposite end of a room, and La Région Centrale which is shots of the Canadian landscape (and the sky above it) filmed by a continuously moving camera attached to a robotic arm. Since the the latter runs for three whole hours it’s not the kind of thing you’ll find on TV or even at at most arts cinemas. Consequently all I’ve ever seen are extracts like this but it fascinates all the same. The electronic noises are the sound of the camera arm in operation. Snow apparently said that he wanted the effect to be that of an alien probe exploring a new planet; given this you could probably class La Région Centrale as a piece of science fiction formalism along with Chris Marker’s La Jetée.

YouTube is the worst venue for films intended to absorb the viewer’s intention but for the curious there’s a rough copy of Wavelength here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Downside Up
Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood

5 thoughts on “La Région Centrale”

  1. At least it’s more interesting than Warhol’s Sleep or Empire. :-)

  2. Yes, it is, I wouldn’t mind watching this whereas Warhol’s films have never interested me very much. (And I say this despite having posted a piece here years ago where David Cronenberg enthused about Empire.) Formality on that level isn’t interesting since it’s inevitable: sooner or later someone, somewhere would have done it. You get the same thing in art with the blank or single-colour canvas. Snow’s films are surprising and intriguing: many people might have had the idea of leaving a camera running on a mountaintop; few would have thought of attaching it to a moving arm.

  3. The only really interesting Warhol film (the ones he shot himself not the ones he got others to do for him and then put his name on) are the Screen Tests because they’re so short and the people in them are so young and it was all so long ago.

    Brushing your teeth can be sexy. :-)

  4. I’ve actually watched the whole thing, back when I was younger and stronger. DId you know that Mike is also a super heavy piano player? He earned a living in Jazz bands in the forties before his art took off. He is in a great trio called CCMC with sound poet Paul Dutton and John Oswald of Plunderphonics fame. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with each one of them at different times.

  5. I knew he’d been involved with the jazz world in the early 60s as I have a CD of New York Eye and Ear Control. But didn’t know much more than that until I was looking at his Wikipedia entry. Makes sense he’d be involved with John Oswald. I’m very familiar with the Plunderphonics recordings.

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