The Invisible Man

Mike Hoolboom

2003, 18:00 minutes, Colour, English


“Mike Hoolboom’s restlessly intelligent film is broken up into ten parts, each revolving around issues of representation, eventually narrowing into a sort of treatise on the Hollywood dream factory and its impact on how we imagine the future. Working in a transcendental style not entirely dissimilar to Chris Marker’s, Hoolboom reconfigures a wide array of found footage into a consistently compelling meta-movie which demands and rewards rapt attention.” Adam Nayman, Eye Weekly

Imitations strains childhood through a history of reproduction, culling pictures from the Lumiéres to the present day in order to find the future in our past. A video in nine parts: In the Future (3 min), Jack (15 min), Last Thoughts (7 min), Portrait (4 min), Secret (2 min), In My Car (5 min), The Game (5.5 min), Scaling (5 min), Imitation of Life (21 min).

“It may indeed be questioned whether we have any memories at all from our childhood: memories relating to our childhood may be all that we possess. Our childhood memories show us our earliest years not as they were, but as they appeared at the later periods when the memories were aroused. In these periods of arousal, the childhood memories did not, as people are accustomed to say, emerge; they were formed at that time. And a number of motives, with no concern for historical accuracy, had a part in forming them, as well as in the selection of the memories themselves.” Freud

“Major essay filmmaking from Canada’s Hoolboom, quite the equal to fellow Canadian Peter Mettler in the depth and range of his poetic, personal and philosophical mixed-media enquiries. An ambient assembly of diverse footages, from ads to classic clips, home movies to video diaries. Imitations explores the compulsion to document reality and the fissure between image and experience. Following the early childhood of his nephew Jack, Hoolboom delivers a profound, elegiac but often wryly humorous enquiry into the role of representation in the contemporary mindset. The presiding tone might be Markersque but the voice is Hoolboom’s own, melancholy, moving and committed. It all adds up to a poetic, persuasive evaluation of the disquieting new world we are making, and the attendant disappearances along that road.” Time Out, London

“Mike Hoolboom’s latest work is an extraordinary palimpsest in action. It is packed with cinema images that interpenetrate, fertilize and repel one another. Taken from Hollywood fiction films but also from newsreels and documentary and scientific works, all these images patiently collected against the background of a salutary hold-up (the scenes are excised without any particular precaution from the gigantic body of cinema films, and by extension from the myths that they convey) have something of the construction of a metafilm. This is both a situationist commentary, through the playful and iconoclastic way in which the works concerned are diverted, and at the same time a Sisyphean attempt to get another story to emerge from this magma of images. In ten chapters Hoolboom gives consistency to nightmare-filled sleep and to waking dreams, with which he constructs a political and poetic reflection. Political in that he brands cinema as a colonial weapon, which even today-at least partially-tends to impose an imperialist vision of the world. The documentary shot of two white women throwing a few bread crumbs to some poor people is quite terrifying from this point of view. His film is poetic in its development of associations via editing. The film is organized into periods of harmony and hiatus, where light and darkness, body and decors, draws the arabesques of an incomplete narrative. When Mike Hoolboom himself gets hold of a camera, it’s above all to film Jack, his sister’s little boy, for whom he shows concerned affection.

In an intimate mode, voice-overs express doubts about the history of human beings and their expectations as they face the future. The pieces of music have a very elaborate density. They work at the heart of time, the passing of which they strive to disrupt and the buried dimensions of which they strive to bring out. The passing of time is modeled by images of the world in which Mike Hoolboom’s archaic fears and dreams reside. But it ends with a gag-the filmmaker’s elegant way of not giving in to melancholy.” Jean Perret, Visions du Réel Festival

“Director Mike Hoolboom’s archival snippets appear like fevered memories, and that’s the point. In our warped, media-happy world, filmed images-from Hollywood’s to simple home movies-take the place of our real memory. Life becomes a series of indirect, pretend experiences. Your eyes will strain to take in thousands of seductive fragments from big-screen footage (from old Leni Riefenstahl propaganda to Terminator 2) adeptly edited with Hoolboom’s own loving, sepia records of his nephew growing up. Likewise, your brain will work hard to absorb Hoolboom’s contemplative, poetic and sometimes wryly political musings on the meaning of life and the uncertain future. In all, it’s worth the effort, as this stunning, expressionistic delirium overwhelms with both sights and insights.” Janet Smith, Georgia Straight

“Mike Hoolboom is without doubt one of Canada’s film treasures-even if most people don’t know him from Adam. Committed to making experimental movies in an age where most prefer slick and mindless entertainments, Hoolboom has carved a unique and respected niche for himself. With Imitations of Life, Hoolboom takes on nothing less than the moving image and its personal relevance as it compares, in an abstract way, real life to the projected photographic self. Comprised of hundreds of clips from other movies, Hoolboom has created an emotional palimpsest of the human spirit that is enlightening on several fronts at once-from our collective dreams, to our apathy of imagination.” Katherine Monk, Vancouver Sun

“What is most difficult to uphold is the appropriation and/or depropriation that is not respectful, that takes something without asking and uses or changes it. A conventional ethical view would argue that such appropriation is wrong and that it shows a lack of respect for propriety and for a history which would establish the rights of certain people to exclusive or privileged use of something. But it is precisely this kind of appropriation that is prevalent today, and it is also a kind of appropriation that on occasion has the most fortuitous results. Such an appropriation does not obey laws of ‘cultural exchange,’ and it is usually asymmetrical. But this doesn’t mean it’s used solely by the privileged or powerful on the marginalized and powerless, since it’s also employed by the marginalized and powerless. In the formulation of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, global capital, in its contemporary form of empire, appropriates the wealth of the commons through legal protocols such as patent and copyright registry, by which it establishes ownership. The goal of the multitude – those who are poor because they are denied access to material wealth and the realm of the immaterial that includes ideas, identities – is to reappropriate that wealth.” In Praise of Copying by Marcus Boon

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