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— by Chritian Lebrat —

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Since I began making films I have always been interested in the fact that the image in cinema — the image on the screen — dose not exist at all. It is an immaterial image : you cannot touch it, it’s only light, projected light.

If you are a filmmaker you have to deal with this very strong characteristic of cinema : on one hand you work with the celluloid which is a very concrete medium. You can touch it, cut it, work grame by frame and so on, and on the other hand, when this celluloid is projected, the concrete images are transformed into projected light. So, when you make a film, you must keep in mind that the celluloid on which the iamges are printed will be transformed into light by the projector. For this reason, the work of a filmmaker is essentially to do with rythm, speed, movement and mutations of light.

The work is between : between the frames, between colours, between the act of shooting the celluloid and the of projecting it into light.

And this is why you cannot imagine the film — your film — without projecting it. And this is very important and obvious element of my films. For example, the sill images of my films published in this review cannot give any idea of the projected film. They do not p^rovide any idea of the rythms, of the mutations of colours, or of the colours themselves, because the concrete colours on the celluloid are sometimes completely transformed into others by the act of projection.

Film is just magic because it can produce unexpected and extraordinary effects of this sort.


If you cannot touch the screen with your hand, you can sometimes touch it with your eyes. What you see when you look at my colours films Trama or Holon is in your eyes and not on the screen. What is on the screen are only stills which don’t move and what is in your eyes are vibrations without shapes, especially in Holon. For example, if your eyes flicker during the projection, you change the nature of the film.

I chose to work only with colours in both of these films to express the specific potentiality of vision in cinema. Not figurative images, just vibrations, just your vibrations.

When I made Trama, I always used the same six basic colours, but when you look at the film the colours are always changing. You can sometimes see grey colours or the colour gold which are produced by the specifioc rythms and speed when projected. I looked at it several times and tried many combinations. I shot about one hour of film which I finally reduced to twelve minutes.


As a filmmaker, you have to deal with a medium filled with constraints. For example, the shape and the dimensions of the screen are always the same for any given film projection. They cannot be changed. Even if you work with several screens the basic shape of the screen does not change. My solution was to break the screen from the inside, using very quick and complex changes of colours.

Two years after Trama I finished Holon. The technique of Holon was completly different. For Holon, I used a moving frame of my own fabrication : a perforated strip of black paper which I moved in front of the camera. I refilmed the same roll several times with this moving frame. Each time it was filmed using different speeds, rythmes and colours. I created a visual shock by mixing together these powerful parameters. I created an implosion of the screen, an inner explosion. It was terrific, I had never seen such an image before in cinema. If you llok at the images on the celluloid you cannot imagine what it looks like when it is projected — you have to see the film to believe it.


Cinema is magic. You can obtain visual effects with cinema that are impossible with any other medium. And the magic of cinema is very strong — look at Méliès, for example.

In my Selfportrait with Apparatus (Autoportrait au dispositif) made in 1981, I used the same moving frame as for Holon. The film is completly symmetrical. I filmed the same piec of celluloid 4 times on the right and again on the left and then from the top to the bottom and the reverse. I used an out of date film stock I had kept for years in my fridge and this gave the film its special greenish tone. I did this to make my film more reminiscent of experiences of early cinema.

I filmed myself shooting myself in a mirror and in front of this mirror there was another mirror. So that all the film is like a mirror and, as you know, you cannot touch your image in the mirror, you cannot go through the mirror. This is the immateriality of cinema, the image is not on the screen, the image is just light and it is in your mind.


Excerpts from a lecture given throughout Australia in November 1990.

Published in Cantrills Filmnotes, n. 65-66, october 1991, pp. 56-57.


Christian Lebrat, 1990.
© Christian Lebrat. All rights reserved.

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