The University of Maine’s Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center is currently hosting an eight week Influential Art-Based Film Series. Happening on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. in the IMRC building, the event provides ample and comfortable seating along with free popcorn and drinks. The films are projected onto a large screen, allowing for viewers to have an immersive experience.
The event contains “a curated selection of the most influential masterpieces in the history of cinema,” as stated on the IMRC’s flier for the event.
James Leblanc, co-curator of the event and graduate student at UMaine, wanted to be creative and intentional while selecting these films.
“We were trying to collect films from the inception of cinema to the present day that have mixed the formula of what cinema or video can be,” Leblanc said.
“Russian Ark,” the film shown on Thursday, Feb. 9, fit that criteria. Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov and released in 2002, the viewer follows an invisible narrator through the halls of the Russian Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. All the characters speak Russian. It is a one-shot film, making the entire 95 minute duration completely cohesive. The invisible narrator is accompanied by an eccentric man who is solely referred to as “The European.” As the man and the narrator wander through the halls, they encounter beautiful paintings, sculptures and architecture. Strange characters are introduced throughout the museum, coming and going sporadically.
The tinges of postmodernity throughout the film are what keep the viewer engaged and curious, as well as make the film strange. Although the lack of sequence of events or plotline might make the viewer feel disoriented, it forces the viewer to simply observe the film and not try to make sense of anything. The film’s curators likely used the one-shot sequence with this effect in mind. It is quite different from many contemporary films today, where different cuts are rapidly shown in sequence. Even a simple editorial change such as this one transforms the viewer’s experience. The decision to make the film a one-shot sequence elongates each scene and heightens the viewer’s appreciation of the artistic choices made.
Although the winter weather is currently keeping the film event indoors, Leblanc hopes the warmer months will allow for a different viewing experience. The IMRC building is located next to the Cumberland Quad, which provides ample space to sit on the grass.
“If it gets warm enough within the next few weeks or the next few months, we’ll have seating outside so people will be able to watch it from the green,” Leblanc said.
Since this is the first time this event is occuring, Leblanc is curious to see what students think of the films.
“I am definitely interested in other peoples ideas for more films,” Leblanc said.
At the end of “Russian Ark,” the invisible narrator motions to exit the Russian Heritage Museum through a doorway. He then discovers that the building is in the middle of the ocean, prohibiting him from leaving. The viewer leaves the film confused, as they likely were throughout its duration.
These film events are important because they expand our idea of what film can be. Just like literature, mathematics, science or philosophy, being introduced to new mediums and new ideas is critical to successfully understanding different disciplines. Being introduced to films from different directors changes the way the viewer understands film in general. These film-viewings are also a great resource for those who might just be beginning to understand or appreciate film and don’t exactly know where to start. They’re each from different time periods and different locations, and all include unique ideas.
In the weeks prior, the film series has shown “George: The Story of George Maciunas and Fluxus” by Jeffrey Perkins as well as five short films from cinemas inception, including “The Great Train Robbery” by Edwin S. Porter. It will be interesting to see which films are chosen for the five weeks that follow.
The IMRC’s eight-week Influential Art-Based Film Series occurs Thursday nights at 7 p.m. in the Stewart Commons room number 104. The IMRC is also concurrently hosting a Visiting Artist Lectures Series on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. The upcoming artist is Chelsea Knight, who is visiting on Feb. 21.
More information is available at https://imrccenter.umaine.edu/.