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Straange Attractors [Richard Paske, USA, 2018] /// Spremuta di Mostro [Daniel Mercatali & Michele Valtancoli, Italy, 2018]

April 27, 2019

When musician Richard Paske sat down on his piano in Minneapolis in 1998, it is unlikely that he envisioned the results becoming a computer composited experimental film twenty years down the line. The importance of never throwing away one’s finished work has never been more felt than it has for Paske, with a new life breathed into his original eleven bar blues. By passing his original live recording jazz ensemble piece through the Ableton Max for Live plug-in Oscilloscope v.2.0, Paske has created his own personal Windows Media Player-esque visualizer, where the erratic arrangements on screen match the free-form composition of his music.

Paske’s music is vibrant and energetic, and the visual arrangements he has created evolve alongside it. Straange Attractors is available to view in 4K, though this doesn’t appear highly necessary and the piece could be very easily appreciated on a lower resolution. Some of the composites resemble dust-trapped particles on a screen. Others resemble tumbleweeds or bundles of frizzy hair, always marked with a neon glow.

 

However, more important than the aesthetic appeal of any of the individual shapes or patterns is how they interact and evolve with the music. It is their relationship together (as opposed to the visual composition’s individual beauty) that makes the film so impressive. The concept is tried and tested, and the interaction between jazz and visuals are fantastic. However, were you to push pause at any given moment, it is unlikely you’d be left staring at a tableau of any notable beauty. Instead it is the way the patterns shift and flow, working in tandem with the music that brings this piece its ‘strange attraction’.

 

The aural and visual complexity really are astounding, the resultant work of a musician and multimedia artist of enviable experience. Paske’s work has been presented nationwide since the start of his career in the early 1970s, and his ability here to breathe new life into pre-existing pieces indicates he isn’t anywhere near being done yet.

 

Straange Attractors, whilst unoriginal in its concept, is highly accomplished in its execution. Perhaps the biggest praise of the film is that when it finishes (after only three minutes and forty-eight seconds), you’ll be left wishing that it hadn’t and feeling a little short-changed.

The music video to band Testharde’s hard rock song, ‘Spremuta di Mostro’ is high on narrative concept and storytelling drive. Modern day rock videos often fall into the trap of only focusing on abstraction, whereas Testharde’s approach never deviates too far from the story that the lyrics and video are trying to weave.

 

As we watch the band’s all-female trio wander around a seemingly deserted Italian vineyard, they become compelled to tell a story of the vineyard’s past, picking up their instruments, sandwiched on either side by grapevines. The story we are told is of the confused childhood memories of a young boy on his father’s wine growing plantation, learning to overcome his fears as he grows in a surrounding he still views as alien. Singer Ella Liguori’s lyrics tell us of hidden monsters and bountiful harvests, a rock-and-roll ode to youthful fear and exuberance.

 

The production value is mixed. The camera and colouring techniques used when depicting the story of the young boy really are impeccable. Contrastingly, the cinematography and camera setup used as the band stroll around in the vineyard’s modern day setting are of a considerably lower standard. In fact, the narrative of the young boy is almost flawless, the only indelible mark being the lip movements of the actors on screen that distract from the Italian rock vocals over-scoring them. Such is the aplomb of this large section of the film that it makes the inclusion of the secondary story (the band wandering round and performing) a strange addition that could be done away with without anyone missing it.

The supposed production budget for the film was $600, but it appears clear that certain aspects of the footage almost certainly could not have been captured with such a meager budget, begging the question of where these moments actually came from, and which creative teams were responsible for which sections of the footage. Perhaps there is a simple and intriguing explanation, but as the director’s accompanying statement is in Italian, the backstory of this production remains elusive.

 

Spremuta di Mostro opens on a black screen filled with awards festival wreaths. Whilst the video’s success deserves to be lauded, placing such emphasis on its prior success highly raises expectation levels and, unfortunately, the video itself doesn’t quite meet them.

'Straange Attractors' and 'Spremuta di Mostro' were film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018

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