It is of interest to compare Blake Williams’ experimental short film Many a Swan to two other impressive stereoscopic films, John Carter and Prometheus. In John Carter the 3D adds depth to the mise en scène by projecting its background further into space and in Prometheus the technology accomplishes something that the old science fiction films wished that they could do - pop out of the screen. Williams, who is inspired by the origami master Akira Yoshizawa, uses technology to extend Deleuze's concept of the fold. The concept comes from Deleuze's discussion of the Baroque and maniérisme, with their focus on altering, twisting and folding visions of reality.
Many a Swan consist of found footage (most likely from YouTube) and contains many folds; the superimposition of images, the contrasting of live-action and CGI rendering, the distortion of video planes. Many a Swan, like Coorow-Lapham Road before it, is also a journey of perception as in each frame and scene there are many-fold areas of movement and stasis that draws one’s attention. Like so much of Williams’ other work that incorporates technology and its limitations, so is Many a Swan about medium-specificity as it reminds us what it consists of with the blank shots of the two primary colors of 3D technology that of blue and red with their many shade gradations.
Many a Swan is Williams’ 9th official directing credit and it is both a continuation of his thematic interest and a radical shift in tone from his other work. But this reinvention of form is a given for Williams whose films are totally different from one another but whose interest remains constant, which is that of physically and digitally creating images and the devices used to capture and distort them. The film that Many a Swan is most like in Williams’ body of work is Depart. Just like how Depart is a transition film from his landscape films (The Storm) and his student experiments (No Signal) in it Williams’ starts to include digital alterations to the footage instead of only physically altering them. In Many a Swan there is a shift away from the linearity of Coorow as its images are broken up by editing and folding.
Who knows what Williams is going to create next (the abandoned 3D remake of Michael Snow’s Wavelengths sounded fascinating) but it is surely towards the limits of representational arts. For this reason, out of all of the Toronto DIY filmmakers, Williams is the heir of the Escarpment School for his preoccupation with reinventing the painterly Canadian landscape tradition.
(Blake Williams’ Many a Swan is playing before Kazik Radwanski’s Tower on Thursday, February 28th at 9:30pm at The Royal.)