The Strange Words of Bill Brown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Strange Words of Bill Brown


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In the voice-over to his most recent film, Confederation Park (1999, 32 min.), Texas filmmaker Bill Brown makes reference to "the secret languages of exile," and while this reflective, even somber film presents a pastiche of places across Canada where Brown has lived, its real subject is the limits of knowledge. Its long takes are accompanied by verbal meditations on the nation's recent history, including the separatist bombings in Quebec during the 60s, and the battle between English and French becomes a metaphor for the filmmaker's divided mind. Brown applies stickers with city names to a huge outdoor map of Canada, his voice-over suggesting that "we've found our place in the universe" as a result of the "Copernican revolution"--but then the stickers are blown away by the wind. Brown implies that images are insufficient: we need to know their history, their locations, their meaning. But landscapes can't be fully decoded, nor past events captured on film: in the final shot a woman sings, "I don't know where he's headin' for," while a car travels in a circle. His two earlier films are more whimsical: the often hilarious Roswell (1994, 20 min.) satirizes the alleged 1947 crash of a flying saucer near Roswell, New Mexico, but doesn't dismiss the possibility that it might have happened, and Hub City (1997, 15 min.) conflates an account of a devastating tornado (illustrated by an image of a cowboy twirling a rope) with the death of Buddy Holly, a fellow native of Lubbock, Texas. Presented by Chicago Filmmakers; Brown will attend the screening. Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, Chicago, Friday, October 13, 8:00, 773-293-1447.

--Fred Camper

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