ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

*Other Eyes:
Looking Both Ways in the Artist's Studio*

24:00 Dir., prod., ed., Denise Kenney
CDN$150 incl. discussion guide

*Weird Sex and Snowshoes:
a Trek Through the Canadian Cinematic Psyche*

59:00 Omni Film Productions,
dir. Jill Sharpe, prod., Gabriela Schonbach

Both, Canadian/U.S. distributor:
Moving Images Distribution
402 West Pender St., Suite 606
Vancouver, BC V6B 1T6
604-684-3014 FAX: 604-684-7165

Video Reviews


Sylvia Skene
Library Technician
Advanced Education Media Acquisitions Centre
Langara College
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Some are simply there because they are being paid to model for him. Some are there because they have commissioned him to make a portrait of them--usually, but not always, with them naked or partly dressed.

The video "Other eyes" looks at the relationships, undercurrents and interactions between painter Doug Jamha and the women who model for him. The filmmaker Denise Kenney interviews a number of models as well as the artist, and juxtaposes them with works of art of these models.

Each woman carries into the studio her own self-image, both physical and mental, her discomfort with her body's "flaws" versus her "ideal" woman's body, and her concerns about being naked in front of this man--however professional their relationship.

Each woman also wants to be truly seen, their whole selves portrayed in paint at a point in time, although each is also aware that this portrait has been filtered through the artist's eyes, perceptions, sexuality and biases. For some, it is a liberating experience; others are pragmatic. One subject breaks down while talking about needing the sense of safety, even though she was ultimately very happy to give her partner the portrait to hang in their living room (to the embarrassment of the teens in their household--briefly).

Jamha's female nudes and portraits are popular among women--in fact, 90% of his customers are women. Interestingly, he acknowledges that his own preference for female models says something about himself. He believes he is using the "otherness" of a woman to really portray himself (or a part of himself) without feeling threatened by it. And the women are also aware that although Jamha is working with a nude or partially nude which has been a traditionally "objectified" viewpoint of women, the paintings are definitely portraits as well, with the women's own personalities showing through strongly.

This is an interesting and unusual look at the artistic process between a painter and his subjects. At twenty-four minutes, it would be an excellent tool for senior-level high school or adult classes.

I'm just throwing in the second video, "Weird sex and snowshoes : a trek through the Canadian cinematic psyche," for all you poor people who have no idea how perverse, subversive and "idiosyncratic" (Atom Egoyan's word) our cinema really is.

Loosely based on the book of the same name by Vancouver film critic Katherine Monk, this hour-long video gives the viewer snippets of a wide variety of Canadian films, past and present. Filmmakers such as Egoyan, Robert Lepage, Patricia Rozema, and others give their own views in English and French about what they think Canadian cinema is all about.

The program is almost exclusively focused on narrative film. It is in no way a scholarly or thorough look (a number of the snippets are not even credited, except at the end). It touches on a few of Monk's themes--for example, the enormous geography, internal demons, the ordinary made bizarre or even mystical, the influence of Canada's strong documentary tradition--and yet misses other major ones, such as the strong, independent, intelligent woman and the rather quiet, somewhat neurotic, but interesting, perceptive and resilient man that have been recurring as characters since Nell Shipman's Back to God's Country in 1919. (I have arguments about some of the themes Monk proposes, but I recommend the book anyway, as she knows how to write entertainingly.)

The video also features talented artists like "triple threats" Don McKellar and Mina Shum. Actors, directors, and writers, they are not that unusual in Canada where budgets are low, expectations high, and government-funded organizations like the National Film Board of Canada had been supporting the development of filmmakers through creating high-quality documentaries and animated films for many years.

If your patrons have only been exposed to Hollywood movies, and found them wanting, this may encourage them to try independent or alternative cinema, wherever your library is located. Or if you have patrons who are interested in film, this can be an entertaining romp featuring films and people they recognise or have heard about.

Again, this is mature and often quietly droll subject matter here, so I'd rate it at senior-high or college level for maximum viewer satisfaction.

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