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The tiny phantasmagorias of Bernard Gigounon
June 19, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

'It has been said that cinema is in essence a special effect. The video work of Bernard Gigounon reduces that notion to its minimal essence: cinema as an illusion, created by the manipulation of images in time. He does not create this effect with advanced, multi-dimensional digital technologies, but rather through simple, transparent magic...'

via It's Nice That
posted by carsonb (31 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weird and beautiful!
posted by moonmilk at 3:41 PM on June 19, 2009


I like these a lot. Actually, I've been doing some similar stuff with video over the last few months, so for me this is inspiring and... validating. Thanks for the post, carsonb.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2009


[this is good]
posted by gwint at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2009


Wow. You all must be seeing things that I am not.
posted by bz at 5:13 PM on June 19, 2009


These are awesome, thanks.
posted by bradbane at 5:17 PM on June 19, 2009


posted by bz at 5:13 PM on June 19: Wow. You all must be seeing things that I am not.

What I see is a master's ability to capture the real and profound with the simplest of means. Det stora in det lilla ("The great in the small") is a Swedish saying that feels very relevant here. It's about capturing the essence of life or a deep insight in a otherwise fleeting moment.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:37 PM on June 19, 2009


I like the idea behind the videos but I think they are a little too long.
posted by Memo at 5:56 PM on June 19, 2009


I also felt like they were overlong. Like... how does he know when enough raindrops on lake are enough? It's like people who use more than one exclamation point!!! (Or do I mean question mark????)

Every time I see someone do that I ask myself, how did they decide between three and five? Two and six? And why wasn't one enough? More times than not, these people are terrible writers.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:06 PM on June 19, 2009


"It's about capturing the essence of life or a deep insight in a otherwise fleeting moment." Like I said. I guess I am just not enlightened enough despite more than two decades in the visual effects industry. My take is closer to the Danish story Kejserens nye Kl├Žder ("The Emporer's New Clothes").
posted by bz at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2009


You all must be seeing things that I am not.

So it would seem.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 PM on June 19, 2009


Sorry. The obviousness of his technique ruins it for me rather than makes it. I feel like "Yeah, I see what you did there, and it didn't really work very well..."

Try to imagine any of his effects used in an actual movie.
posted by rubin at 7:52 PM on June 19, 2009


Indeed. I fail to recognize much craft in these works. They seem as separate studies perhaps for some future effort where things are tied together into something... well, greater. I admit that there is a spark in Cascade and I recognize the work that had to have gone into it but, even so, it is only stands for a few seconds at most.

Interlude, with the photocopier, is impressive simply because the photocopier's throughput is impressive but the idea and technique showcased has been done to death in various commercials. The mirror effect in Starship is, pretty much, a lazy insult.

I apologize for not living up to the metafilter deepness recognition index but I'm not seeing much visual value here.
posted by bz at 7:54 PM on June 19, 2009


The mirror effect in Starship is, pretty much, a lazy insult.

Allow me to suggest that those of you who aren't 'seeing it' take into consideration that Gigounon was a sculptor before moving into video. (Maybe he should have carved his niche in that field, hardy har.) Coming at these small films from that perspective, rather than from a movie/film/video perspective, may help you appreciate why they are so affecting for me and others. I see them as little moving sculptures done in video rather than stone or wood or what have you. It's a novel (to me) approach to film, and I find his works in turn hypnotic and exciting. So, to me, saying that a particular effect of his is a lazy insult is like dissing a Rodin cause it's rough-hewn.

Having said that, I wouldn't have posted it if I didn't think there wasn't something to talk about so I appreciate your contribution to the discussion. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 8:07 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked 'em, but they were more than a little overlong. Thirty seconds each would pretty much do it. Cute ideas, but once you get it you get it and you don't need another two minutes of it playing with oompa-oompa music in the background to drive the point home.
posted by Scattercat at 8:09 PM on June 19, 2009


"Gigounon was a sculptor before moving into video."

Thank you for illuminating why you think this work is significant to you. I think the posting is great but I just don't appreciate the work.
posted by bz at 8:14 PM on June 19, 2009


I think some of you need to click through to his website. I didn't particularly like 'Starships' but the ones on his site are a lot shorter and to the point

I don't really mind the length though or that they aren't like "actual movies" (whatever that means). Maybe this is because I come from photography background.. if I can stare at a single photograph for several minutes it doesn't really seem like a big deal to watch a short film just because it's not all whiz-bang-slick-digital-boom or whatever.
posted by bradbane at 8:24 PM on June 19, 2009


This stuff is gorgeous. I admire the transparency. I enjoy movies even if I know the plot turn by turn, and I enjoy visual effects and audio manipulations not on the condition that they trick me, but because I admire the artistry of their use. The audio work in these shorts is very well done.

These are short films, and I would have much more respect for using multiple exclamation points if there were some subtle variation between exclamation points. Five minutes is not very long to focus on countless variations in one simple thing.

The story of the emperor's new clothes kind of irks me. People who cite it seem to always be talking about something cultural, and making the assumption that since they do not know how to approach or appreciate it, there must be nothing to get, making those who do claim appreciate it a bunch of phonies. Liking something someone else does not like does not make you better than them, in the larger scheme of things it hardly even makes you different from them. In the cultural world everything is fake, everything is a human invention, so it is an act of incredible hubris to call attention to a particular cultural artifact as being inauthentic or some kind of artistic snake-oil. Culture is humans inventing things and inventing stories to tell about those things that were invented. There are countless reasons for liking something, and as many for not liking something. Taking the time to call someone inauthentic over this seems like a severe bullying case of intellectual insecurity.
posted by idiopath at 8:30 PM on June 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sometimes things are not what they seem.
posted by bz at 10:06 PM on June 19, 2009


windows were shaking
all night in my dreams
everything was exactly
the way that it seems
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:16 PM on June 19, 2009


Ok, I love this stuff.

I love the starships. Why? Because I have spent a good deal of time around boats, and never, once, did I consider that one could achieve such a complicated image and effect (a starship, gliding through open space) simply by mirroring the upper deck of the ship and skyline image. Some of the night time shots look better and more detailed that most 80s and 90s scifi, and with some effort, you could clean it up even more.

And the beauty of it is the entire point of what he is doing is to show how tricks influence what we perceive. If I didn't see the title card "Starship" I probably would be stuck trying to figure out what it was he was trying to demonstrate with the mirrored images of boats. But the suggestion at the beginning shaped my entire experience of the short.

I had the same experience with the "simple" video, in the black leader to the video, the noise I heard I immediately associated with applause in a theatre, I even recall hearing distinct sounds of people, but once the footage of the rain on the lake started playing, my entire sense of judgement was called into question. Did I actually hear the sounds of people cheering with the applause, or was it just my brain filling in those gaps, because it was close enough, and when presented with the image of rain falling on the lake, did my brain do a 180, re-associating the sound to be the rain, not applause. Then he fades to black again, and I hear more cheers. Am I hearing it, or has he added those tracks in there specifically to mislead me again.

That is why what he is doing is magic. He isn't making things disappear, he is making you think what he wants you to think, hear what he wants you to hear, which if you talk to a real magician, is what the whole gig is about: Creating illusions through the power of suggestion. He has just distilled it down to the essence of the act, beautiful little pieces of eyecandy that demonstrate how easily our own minds can be misled.

No offense, in some ways, these videos are things that should have no introduction, instead allowing the person to observe them first, before being told about what they are, so their own expectations (> Try to imagine any of his effects used in an actual movie.) don't shape the viewing experience. The idea is not to introduce these as visual effects in the technical term as if it were some sort of industry portfolio, but I would assume they are to draw attention to the fact that how the whole of cinema is a special effect.

Not the special effects of cinema, but that cinema, film, even documentaries that don't have a single set designer or compositing wizard on the payroll, are fabricated, edited, shaped, manipulated, all to influence the viewer. He is showing the simplest terms how those fabrications can be accomplished.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:37 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like the idea behind the videos but I think they are a little too long.

hahahahaha. whooooo. no more experimental film for YOU then!

I thought they were not weird ENUF. "Starship" is too determiniative a title and the music too directly referential. I'd rather see some more complex camera movements disrupting the physical and generic frame of reference.

But of course I like it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:54 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's another one, that I think is really simply amazing in execution.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:58 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh! A lot more! Joy! What a fun site. Fuck that YouTube compression BS.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:59 PM on June 19, 2009


>if I can stare at a single photograph for several minutes it doesn't really seem like a big deal to watch a short film...

That's an interesting point about video. There seems to be a tacit agreement that, because there is a time axis, something will happen. When it doesn't, we feel cheated. Why this should be so, I don't know. But I find that recontextualizing the work as more akin to sculpture or photography does change the way I can perceive and enjoy it. Not that I did not enjoy it at first blush, but, being released of expectation of events occuring, I can engage with the work more abstractly and experientially. The dude does have some clothes on, they just may not be to everyone's taste.

Love the post.
posted by SNACKeR at 4:47 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thank you for pointing this out to me.
posted by Jikido at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2009


Gorgeous. Thank you.
posted by egypturnash at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2009


> I guess I am just not enlightened enough despite more than two decades in the visual effects industry.

You're too close to the methods; all you can see is the trees, not the forest. I can sympathize - my awareness of cheap animation tricks due to a decade in that industry means that I can't see the joy in something like 97% of the cartoons imported from the East, because all I can see is how many drawings they're cheating around doing, while other people rhapsodize over the story, the characters, and so on.
posted by egypturnash at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2009


Yeah, shooting on fours.
posted by bz at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2009


Exactly. All I can see is the quiver cycle shot on fours, not the story it's telling.

It is possible to learn to see past the domain knowledge to see the beauty. But I only bother doing it for the stuff that comes really highly recommended. Really, I pretty much just don't watch any cartoons nowadays because I have to fight to see past the "craft" filter in my brain.
posted by egypturnash at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2009


Five minutes is not very long to focus on countless variations in one simple thing
It appears that the waterfall animation has variations at first, but it doesn't take long to be annoyed by the loop, which happens about thirty times. It's like one of those cheap white noise machines, rather than minimalism. It doesn't seem like much of a statement. But the captures of the arm and paper positions are pleasing for the first ten or so loops.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:30 PM on June 20, 2009


mrzarquon, that redeemed it for me. Genius! Now if he could just get rid of that damned room tone.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2009


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