Meet French experimental filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot | Bleader

Meet French experimental filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot

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From 200,000 Phantoms
  • From 200,000 Phantoms
Tomorrow at 7:30 PM Chicago Filmmakers will present a program of short works by French experimental filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot at Columbia University's Hokin Hall (623 South Wabash Avenue) with the director in attendance. Active for about 15 years, Périot specializes in repurposing archival footage and still images from contemporary news reports into what may be termed "cine-mosaics." The density of his work can be overwhelming—in every short of his I've seen, I've quickly lost count of just how many images Périot had assembled. At the same time, his work displays an ingratiating musical sensibility; Périot often cuts his work to the tempo of a piece of music, locking the viewer into a groove before making his point. (If you want a preview of his work, you can watch two shorts from tomorrow's program, 200,000 Phantoms [2007] and Undo [2005], on YouTube.)

Périot's rhetoric is generally clear, if not always reassuring. Most of the pieces I've watched deal with the weight of traumatic historical episodes: 200,000 Phantoms considers the bombing of Hiroshima, and Even If She Had Been a Criminal (2006) condenses the Nazi occupation of France into a head-spinning three-minute history before slowing down to present the postwar humiliation of French women accused of sleeping with Nazi officials. Yet Périot often juxtaposes images of tyrannical behavior with images of collective resistance, suggesting his belief in a more peaceful society.

Tomorrow's program takes its name from Périot's 2004 short We Are Winning, Don't Forget, which begins as a slideshow of smiling individuals, then segues into images of small groups, then large ones, and finally political protests. Scored to an excerpt of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor track, We Are Winning uses the accumulation of images to convey the formation of political movements. It's a stirring piece of filmmaking, though characteristically ambivalent in its message. Instead of concluding with images of peaceful protest, it culminates with shots of protesters being beaten by police—calling into question who the "we" of the title are supposed to be.

If you can't make it to Columbia College tomorrow, the program screens again on Saturday night, sans Périot, at the Chicago Filmmakers building in Andersonville.

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