RP31 is an animation made from 31 film projection test patterns and calibration charts. Used in the motion picture industry to test for focus, aperture, field steadiness, framing, these patterns are images you're not supposed to see, which are made to make you see better.
Though the imminent death of film has been announced innumerable times throughout the history of the medium, there's no denying that our cinema experiences have been profoundly affected — if not homogenized — by a sweeping digitalization. With RP31, American artist Lucy Raven ingeniously references, and refutes, this current state. Animating thirty-one digitized test patterns that have been extracted from their original 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm film loops and printed to 35mm, Raven both underscores the uniformity of our current media culture and pays homage to the vivid colours and graphic beauty of celluloid — which, forever imperiled, stubbornly refuses to succumb to its destiny.
Case in point is the shape-shifting feature that follows, La última película, by prolific Philippine filmmaker Raya Martin and Canadian critic/filmmaker Mark Peranson. Reimagining Dennis Hopper's 1970 film maudit The Last Movie, it accompanies a disillusioned and delusional American filmmaker (Alex Ross Perry, director and star of The Color Wheel) and his bemused local guide (Gabino Rodríguez, frequent star of the films of Nicolás Pereda) while the former conceives, prepares and ultimately makes a psychedelic Western in the Yucatán. This cult curio in the making critically and romantically explores the aesthetic ramifications of the shift from film to video, employing multiple formats to create an alchemical collage.
Set on the brink of the Mayan Apocalypse and conjuring up the combustive atmosphere and combative spirit of seventies American independent cinema, this fact/ fiction hybrid delves into the fissures of our scattered, globalized era, leaving a host of cinematic clichés in its wake. With humour and passion to spare, La última película looks backwards and forwards at the same time, creating an oneiric gesture toward salvation even as it considers its own demise. Is this filmmaking as criticism? Or a feverish and wry cri de coeur for an art form that has radically altered the way we see the world? ANDRÉA PICARD