Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Charming Augustine

Paul Régnard photograph of Augustine

Image from Charming Augustine, 3D 16mm B/W - 40 minutes

From Zoe Beloff's website:

The film is inspired by series of photographs and texts on hysteria published by the great insane asylum in Paris in the 1880's under the title of the Iconographie photographique de la Salpetriere. It is an experimental narrative based on the case of a young patient, Augustine. At fifteen she was admitted to the hospital suffering from hysterical paralysis. The doctors were captivated by her frequent hysterical attacks. They appeared extraordinarily theatrical and photogenic. She became the star, the "Sarah Bernhardt" of the asylum. Yet at the same she was deeply disturbed. She had visions and heard voices. She hallucinated.

The film explores connections between attempts to document her mental states and the prehistory of narrative film. The role of the motion studies by Marey and Muybridge in the birth of cinema is well known. However while they attempted to study the mechanics of the body, the doctors at the Salpetriere, working with similar cameras, aimed to unlock the secrets of their patient's minds.

I wish to show how patients like Augustine supplied the psychic drive that would come to flower in the works of D.W. Griffith. Thus the language of the film changes; at first it is simply a medical document, then it becomes is an indication of Augustine's interior perception, her hallucinations. Finally she becomes "disenchanted" both in the contemporary sense of that word and in its original meaning of being awakened from a magnetic sleep or hypnotic trance.

To conjure up a time just prior to the invention of cinema I shot the film in a stereoscopic format to suggest a different direction that cinema might have taken had it been invented in the 1880's. Ultimately what I wish to convey is a fragile, spectral, what if...a moment in time when the moving image was on the brink of existence in a form not yet standardized.

Zoe Beloff will screen Charming Augustine and Shadowland Or Light From The Other Side at REDCAT Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater, Monday April 27 8.30pm, 631 W. 2nd Street Los Angeles in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex.

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