Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 7:30pm
Fred Tan's Split of the Spirit + Ben Rivers's Things

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Things, Ben Rivers, 2014, 16mm, 21 mins
Split of the Spirit, Fred Tan, 1987, 16mm, 89 mins
Introduced by Ben Rivers

“I have always liked, and perhaps made, films whose concern for plot and character development is less important than other kinds of pure cinematic experience, and horror planted that seed,” artist Ben Rivers wrote recently for a program of “midnite movies” he curated for Harvard Film Archive. “These films are predominantly ones of visceral experience. They are about atmospheres, sound and image combined to create extremely unnerving spaces based around ingenuity and the flimsiest storylines. Try to even understand the plot...it doesn’t matter, because the films transcend well-worn conventions in favor of gloriously fragmented experiments in terror.”

A rarity Rivers unearthed from Harvard’s vaults, Fred Tan’s Split of the Spirit is a macabre tale of supernatural possession, necromantic battles, and the vengeful phantom of a woman scorned. In Tan’s stylish neo-noir thriller, a renowned female choreographer becomes overtaken by the specter of a murdered woman, who forces her to enact revenge upon the men who have wronged her. After a string of gruesome slayings, the film culminates in a searing conflagration, an allegorical avant-garde dance finale, and ultimately an Orphic journey to the afterworld and back. Tan worked as an assistant director to King Hu and made only three features before his death at age thirty-five; placing the forces of ancient sorcery in contemporary Taiwan and Hong Kong, he deploys an ominous synth soundtrack and an expressive, haunting mise-en-scène to bring primeval frights into the modern world.

Inspired by George Perec’s Les choses and Robert Pinget’s Fable, Rivers’s Things is structured around pictures of objects found in the filmmaker’s apartment: old photos, books, drawings, tiny sculptures. “This film was a challenge set by a friend, to make something in my home over the course of the year,” Rivers has explained. “Coming from a country where the seasons are very evident, I am interested in how they affect people's sense of the world, moods, and our understanding and relationship to our environment.” Paired with a variety of found sounds, these objects become imbued with an ineffable air of portent. The piece ends with a virtual rendering of Rivers’s flat using a videogame engine—a 21st century spirit world of sorts. It’s a fitting, uncanny conclusion to a work that hinges not on images of the world, but rather images of those images, not things themselves, but their ghosts.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.