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The Films of Phil Solomon

The Films Of Phil Solomon: "American Falls"

By Bret McCabe | Posted 4/7/2010

The Films of Phil Solomon

At the Charles Theater April 8 at 9 p.m.

Phil Solomon makes films that are alive with textural complexity. The Colorado-based experimental filmmaker has a new piece debuting at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art April 10, a multi-media installation titled "American Falls," commissioned by the Corcoran for its grand rotunda. This week, the Magic Eye Film series and the Johns Hopkins University screen two of Solomon's 16-mm shorts, "The Snowman" and "Remains to be Seen," and his video series "In Memoriam, Mark LePore."

Solomon's 1989/1994 "Remains to Be Seen" and 1995 "The Snowman" offer brief entries into his lyrical imagery and experiments with distressing/treating film stock. In "The Snowman," what look like home movies of winter scenes--a hat-and-coat swaddled young boy occasionally shoveling snow, somebody on a toboggan, a group shot of kids--are animated by background scratches and lines, giving the image a picturesque restlessness. The soundtrack offers the howl of a stiff wind, which feels a tad incongruous as the imagery becomes more summer themed--some people at a pool, for instance. The short offers a disarming mood of sublime nostalgia: There's something incredibly personal about it, as if watching somebody's memories about a time and place long since past. A similar elegiac tone runs through the gorgeous "Remains to Be Seen," a short of elegant emotions and arresting imagery. Solomon's treated imagery becomes a symphonic remembrance of a life: The images themselves look ephemeral, like they're always about to dissipate into the ether, lending the viewing experience a curious preciousness--something about the fleeting nature of the images makes savoring them feel all the more meaningful.

"In Memoriam, Mark LePore" is a video trilogy for which Solomon appropriated images from the Grand Theft Auto video game and transformed them into his engrossing lyricism. In "Rehearsals for Retirement," one of the three shorts in the trilogy, that takes the form of some kind of metaphorical journey. The short introduces a male silhouette, as enigmatic and monolithic as the vertical black slab in 2001, which appears to travel through a digital landscape accompanied by an ambient score that sounds like it's suggesting some navigation of outer or inner space. It's a hypnotic experience, one that pulls you into the short's orbit but leaves you not entirely sure where you're headed.

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