Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Cinematic Beauty Journies of Giovanna Chesler and Timoleon Wilkins

I just watched this slideshow that my dad sent, which was the perfect reminder of the roots of my relationship to aesthetic beauty and why I find filmmakers Giovanna Chesler and Timoleon Wilkins so important.

I'm sure my dad is a huge influence on how I see the world and why beauty is so important to me. I'm grateful that now, as an adult nearing middle-age, I can finally see the interconnectedness of my dad's slideshows and his ever-present camera and my own career path and my love of avant-garde film. But there are others who've also had a huge influence on me.

photo by Timoleon Wilkins
When I first met filmmaker Timoleon Wilkins in San Francisco in the mid-1990's, he was my boss at an art-house movie theater in the Tenderloin. He invited me to a lot of experimental film screenings and showed me even more work at his home. I fell in love with his imagery and with everything he was teaching me about avant-garde film. He also encouraged me to pick up my parents' super-8 camera and start shooting Kodachrome. I've noticed since that many of the things I shoot are things I think Tim would shoot and I often wonder if he taught me how to see things or if it is our common vision in the world that is one of the things that brought us together in the first place. Tim taught me that beauty was absolutely worth capturing on film simply because it was beautiful and pleasing to look at. Now, like Tim, I store beautiful images for later use, not knowing how I might use them or what work they might comprise in the future.

still from Timoleon Wilkins' Drifter

Giovanna Chesler's photographic beauty then is more deliberate. I first met Giovanna when we screened her 16mm work at a film festival I was working on in Chicago and she came in from San Diego for the screenings. I have programmed several of her works in various settings over the past ten years and each time I am struck by the beauty of her composition and by how genuine her work is, how heartfelt. But the most obvious thing I think of when I think of Chesler's work is her ability to fluidly move between genres and to do each genre excellently and authentically. Giovanna is a perfectionist filmmaker who creates compelling fiction (BEAUTEOUS, BYE BI LOVE), documentary (PERIOD: THE END OF MENSTRUATION?) and experimental forms (HAND.SOME and BEAUTEOUS: GIOVANNA), as well as smart internet work that involve collaborative group projects that engage communities (HPV PROJECT). It's no coincidence that BEAUTEOUS is a key word even in her titles. Chesler deconstructs beauty even as she creates some of the prettiest images in modern cinematography.

still from Giovanna Chesler's BeauteouS

In fact, maybe that's the difference between Wilkins' and Chesler's work- Tim captures images purposely  without purpose and G's images and stories are expertly planned and calculated. But both of these filmmakers use the full frame, filling it with beauty.

Tim was remarking the other day that he can't take photos of flowers, implying that photos of beautiful flowers are cliché and unoriginal because people are not interested in the subject matter. But he said that he practices his technique by shooting flowers and the like and that he can give them to his family as christmas gifts.

Tim's take on beauty can be summed up with this clip that he shared with me.:

I don't really agree with Mr. Scruton's rather simplistic view of art and beauty, particularly his notion that beauty is not subjective (or constructed, for that matter...). But I do think this is important to ponder. I, for one, enjoy images that please my eyes and I want more. That's why I love the work of these two filmmakers.

You have a chance to catch their work!

Tonight at Anthology Film Archive in New York, Giovanna will be presenting a program of her work, including her gorgeous and compelling BEAUTEOUS: THE TRILOGY and her latest, the poignant narrative BYE BI LOVE. The show starts at 7:15pm.

Tim exhibits only on celluloid, so catch him when you can. His latest masterpiece, DRIFTER, screened recently at the New York Film Festival and will be screening at the London Film Festival on October 22 and 23 and as part of the TIE festival at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee on October 26.