"Journal" by Julie Delporte (Koyama Press)
In 2011, Montreal-based artist Julie Delporte began an online diary after a devastating breakup, a schism that put her in a position to experiment in order to ground herself and rebuild her life. Now collected, Delporte's "Journal" stands as an abstract and insular testament of a dark stretch of time realized through the bright colors of her expressive artwork.
It's hard to paraphrase any strict story in the work, except to say that the entries follow her time in Montreal attempting to cope with the same life that was radically different in one important way, and to redefine her relationship with her ex.
Later, Delporte moves to Vermont and her tendency to go inside herself seems to take over, and often resembles clinical depression.
The entries are often cryptic, not really spelling out the raw information of her life, but rather slicing up segments of the occasional day and presenting them as the central focus of her being, the core of her daily existence.
Everything surrounding the thoughts and emotions expressed in her entries seem like so much clutter. These are the spare expressions that matter, and her words are in constant collision with her art, which even when depicting something that might be a downer has a way of being uplifting.
It's an entirely personal work that keeps its mysterious quality after its done. Nothing is spelled out, and Delporte's depressed entry inside herself is a sublime defeat that she embraces as much as she combats. I can't guarantee that this is for everyone -- if you demand strong plots rather than subtle insular narratives built around emotion, this may not keep your attention. If you've ever been in a protracted low place, or are just fascinated with how the mind parses significance in a struggle for survival, Delporte's lovely "Journal" will speak strongly to you.
"Beastiaire" (Zeitgeist Video)
It might seem a strange thing to create a film meditation on captivity -- after all, the beauty of animals is more often examined in the natural habitat -- but director Denis Cote shows both the mundane and the terror in such existences, and more often than not, casts aspersions on ourselves as captives of our own systems.
Cote brings cameras to a safari park in Hemmingford, Quebec, just south of Montreal, and captures the passage of time for the animals there, as well as their philosophical relationship with their surroundings and their keepers, as well as the people who visit them in season.
As if to suggest your habitat isn't where you were meant to live but where you actually do live, Cote films animals at home in the park, sometimes calm and resigned, other times uppity and jittery, as if trying to come to terms with the fact that their home is an enclosed space of metal and concrete, as with one jarring passage involving zebras, focusing on their hooves. Even when the animals are outside, the sound fills out the backdrop, cars mixed with the sounds of bugs.
The film opens with art students doing a study of a taxidermied animal, and later watches a park worker as he prepares a bird for a similar fate, but surrounding these are the interactions between humans and animals, from simple feedings to more elaborate moments of observation, such as the confining cage gadget designed to allow workers to get a closer look at a jackal's claws.
Later, the park is open to visitors and the animals are gaped at by vacation-goers, notably children, as they laze around with devil-may-care attitudes or approach cars with curiosity and some amount of fear.
It's a quiet film with a stirring underbelly of aural conflict, populated by animals that look on the verge of revolution and humans who might well be dumbfounded that such a thing took place. But aren't the humans involved just as confined by the trappings of society as animals? And unlike animals, who are easily identified as captive, is perhaps the tragedy of humans that their self-captivity has become so mundane, so routine, that by building cages within their own, they come to misinterpret their place in the world as a free one?