By Lou Collier
2 min read
The Caper Tapes Vol 1 • 2022 • dir Nicole Amidon • Available on YouTube
Portrait of a Lady on Fire • 2019 • dir Céline Sciamma • Brattle, Feb 16
In this newly created column I plan to highlight Boston area filmmakers and film events whenever possible (in addition to recommending repertory screenings). The Caper Tapes Vol 1 is the first locally made film I’ve seen in the new year, and I’m pleased it’s the first one I’ll ever be covering here. It’s a 45 minute “visualization” to accompany an album of the same name, and I initially saw it on a Twitch livestream in January. The music, by Dead Army Choir, is a soundscape of chopped up conversations mixed with electronic experimentation (apparently the conversations we hear were all recorded during a road trip from Boston to a Waffle House in Scranton, PA). Each song gets its own distinct visual treatment, ranging from purely abstract animation to digitally altered stock footage.
Some of the “chapters” have the same effect as the old liquid light shows projected during psychedelic concerts. Other sections, especially the less abstract ones, feel more like standalone experimental films. The artist Nicole Amidon was given only one week to produce the film ahead of its premiere, which is hard to believe when you see the results. The film takes advantage of animation loops and generative video, but never feels repetitive or arbitrary. Instead, the looping elements mixed with the sound collage put me in a trance. I’m a big fan of films that are able to mix and switch styles throughout (Hausu and Natural Born Killers for example), so I really appreciated how Caper Tapes takes that approach rather than sticking with and developing one look. The different techniques used reminded me of Len Lye’s cameraless animations, Mary Ellen Bute’s “visual music,” and Bruce Conner’s montages, to name a few. I’m hoping there will be a Caper Tapes Vol 2 with another accompanying film sometime soon.
My second recommendation is Portrait of a Lady on Fire at the Brattle. It has one of the most effective slow builds I’ve ever experienced in a movie, and is just generally one of the best romances I’ve seen. I’m also looking forward to seeing Céline Sciamma’s most recent film, Petite Maman, whenever it comes to town.
*Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #143 February 2022