Originally published in: cineclandestino.it
In the eyes of many a movie such as Incident Reports (70 minutes 2015) might look like a classic example of therapeutic cinema, although others might attach more miraculous values. The line that separates these interpretations is thin, and likely to make us slip into difficult and slippery territories where we might find the roots of complex arguments. The controversy dividing medicine-science and religion has been burning since the dawn of time, so it’s wisest perhaps to keep our distance from the fray, to adopt a neutral position, because in the end Mike Hoolboom’s documentary, presented in the international competition of the 36th edition of the Filmmaker Festival in Milan, evinces traces of both aspects.
This is because reading the synopsis and watching the developments on the screen offers something miraculous in the history of the project.
Following amnesia caused by a fall while cycling, the director undertakes audio-visual therapy in order to reapply his memory. He is instructed to make short, one-minute films, each shot on a tripod, that show his city of Toronto, populated by old and new knowledges. His camera searches for intimacy within these spaces, tracing habits old and new. What is born is an unprecedented urban symphony seen through the eyes of a flâneur on the trail of his own looking, fixing the world around him with eyes devoid of superstructures. The way he looks into people and events is like a child who observes and learns for the first time what is around him, but also that of someone who after a period of illness or blindness is finally able to see.
Incident Reports is a film about memory retrieval in the true sense of the phrase, but also permits a stream of consciousness to gradually emerge. Here is a recovery in the literal sense of the word, made by a filmmaker who uses the camera lens as an optical extension to capture an artificial memory of the camcorder itself as a container of images. These sounds, memories and reflections begin to create a new past, replacing the one lost due to an accident that reset everything. It is this total correspondence, the level of penetration between these two components, that is the true strength of the film.
The result is a mosaic made up of individual tiles that once assembled returns the viewer to the measure of everything, including the significance of a transaction that otherwise would only make sense for the one who wanted it. Here meaning is born from the meeting and merging of the individual pieces of the puzzle. From this point of view, technically, Incident Reports could be considered a montage film, as if each shot had been filmed for a “Life in a Day” collage, collectively authored, a multitude newly alive in the container of time. I’m reminded of the words of Salvatores, pronounced as he presented Italy in a Day at the 71st Venice Film Festival “Today, inundated with every type of image, isn’t the assemblage the true soul of cinema?”
In the case of the Canadian filmmaker all this takes on a deeper meaning and intimacy, but is also able to open to the outside and to the world. This very personal project is an anthropological survey, and an act of love for the places in which his subjects live. Mike Hoolboom offers the viewer a reflection on the sense of community, which can often be found in bizarre situations, such as when he films citizens on the street singing in unison a Culture Club song. Every take is both past and present, part of an ongoing archive, and a newly intimate repertoire of gestures.
Here is an audiovisual object that longs to remain unidentified, which in its uncertainty and the desire to escape easy categorizations creates attractions for certain types of audiences, those willing to embrace questions without answers for instance. But at the same time this state of not-knowing is difficult for audiences who do not cherish being lost, who are used to be delivered to meaning in clear semantic chains, who use seeing as a way to confirm what is already known.
We do not see as well.