Snow in December
Screening Dates
  • December 4, 2023 6:30

What I often say to people watching Wavelength for the first time is that it only lasts for 45 minutes, and if you allow it, those 45 minutes will transform your idea of what a film can be.”

Amy Taubin

Canada 1967
Michael Snow
45 min. 16mm

Often described as an unbroken 45-minute zoom, Michael Snow’s Wavelength was in fact shot out of sequence, one of many signals that this is a film of recombinant materials rather than a purely technical stunt. A steely stare that encroaches upon the windows at the back of Snow’s New York loft studio, the film is also full of disruptions and laden with suspense—colour fields and reversals, four human events,” and the peripheral, then unavoidable, question of the camera movement’s ultimate destination. Wavelength exceeded Snow’s expectations, winning the Grand Prize at the major exhibition EXPRMNTL 4. Today its sine-wave scored images still give off a charge whether viewed allegorically or as a work of time-sculpture. Though Snow’s film was created in a space that couldn’t be more ordinary, it’s possible to see, in its pulsing light and ear-testing intensity, the ultimate progression of expectation arriving at knowledge, and the passage of life to death.

If a room could speak about itself, this would be the way it would go … It is hard to believe that a film could be more taut or intelligent.” Manny Farber, Artforum

Wavelength is without precedent in the purity of its confrontation with the nature of the medium … It is a triumphant answer to Bazin’s question, Qu’est-ce que le cinéma?” Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema

followed by

Back and Forth
Canada 1969
Michael Snow
50 min. 16mm

After Wavelength, Michael Snow continued his series of camera motion” films, works often known for their hard, scientific, limit-testing parameters, but also worth experiencing for their deadpan sense of illusionistic humour. The undignified, asymmetrical box of the 20th-century classroom is the site of Snow’s ←→ (aka Back and Forth), where, to a metronomic knock, we accompany a camera’s panning survey, at turns prosaic, vertigo-inducing, then totally abstracted. As in Wavelength, human events punctuate rather than define the film. Many of Snow’s films (including So Is This and A Casing Shelved) directly confront, or prankishly peel back, a pedagogical approach to cinema. In ←→s lighthouse sweep of a room, one can find Snow’s cinema at its most concentrated, a wormhole trip through stale schooltime.

In [both Wavelength and Back and Forth], the artist has seized upon a strategy proper to the medium and carried it to ultimate consequences, exploring its resonances, re-enforcing it with parallel strategies, insisting on the isomorphism of part and whole.” Annette Michelson, Artforum

A major work [of] special intensity … There is a mechanical aspect to [the film] which takes it beyond just aesthetic experience.” Jonas Mekas, Village Voice