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Reason Over Passion

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Reason Over Passion

Joyce Wieland's rarely screened 1969 masterpiece is a neglected landmark of avant-garde film. Taking the form of a cross-country trip on the Trans-Canada Highway, a mostly two-lane road that snakes through forests and mountain ranges, it affords views very different from those offered by U.S. interstates. The sameness of a road trip--the way all windshield views begin to look alike--is modified by a feeling of openness, as Wieland joins images not to fuse two parts of the land but to suggest the unseen spaces between them. Superimposed on the landscapes are anagrams of the phrase la raison avant la passion, taken from a speech by Canada's former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. But the poetic quality of the landscapes seems to argue for passion over reason, as does Wieland's playful rearranging of the letters. At the same time, the systematic way the letters are shifted suggests a rational method, and the film is sincere enough to take the prime minister seriously. On the same program, Wieland's wonderfully funny Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968), a stylistically heterogeneous parable of Vietnam-era draft resistance in which gerbils imprisoned by cat guards escape to Canada; the film has a homemade, kitchen-table look that anticipated much feminist art. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, March 13, 6:00, 312-443-3737. --Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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