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Film Scratches: Suspended Ecstasies – Skin Deep (2015)

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Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

In Skin Deep (Hymn to Eros), a 23 minute dance video by Greek artist Angelina Voskopoulos, we first see a lyrical shot of thick woods with golden sunlight streaming through. Soon we are in a kind of cave and a nude woman (the filmmaker) is hanging in a harness from above. Her body is a silvery color, and silver dust falls over her. Several voices are singing, but mixed with enough reverb that it isn’t possible to distinguish either the language or the lyrics. The woman languorously glories in her suspension, slowly stretching out her limbs, enjoying the feeling of being held, cradled, free from the earth.

In a later sequence where another woman (Marianna Tsagaraki) is standing on the ground, her dance exhibits the inner sensitivity of the Butoh style, the sense that many subtle currents of energy are passing through the body, resulting in nuanced and subtle movements, nourished by breath.

We see a male dancer (Nate Dryden) also suspended in a harness, but this time the image is turned sideways, so that he ‘hangs’ to the left. This creates an uncanny illusion of flight, as he tumbles over and over. His body is bathed in golden shafts of light from a window.

The final sequence takes place in what looks like a vast empty garage. The space is dramatically revealed, as harsh fluorescent lights turn on one by one, finally showing a woman (Genovefa Zagga) standing in the foreground, performing a kind of song which at first consists only of deep breathes. Her breath gradually connects to her voice, developing into a kind of tuneless, primitive eruption of the voice. Fluid pours from her mouth as she sings, literally depicting the “stream of sound.”

skindeep9The dancing in Skin Deep is expressive, nuanced, and powerful, showing a strong knowledge of Butoh. On the other hand, it was disconcerting to see the unskillful and unsophisticated vocal exploration of the final section. This kind of work, exploring the primal relationship between the body, breath, and the voice, has been taken up by many artists since the 1960s, and brought to a very high level of sophistication. In Greece, Diamanda Galas began her explorations in 1979, and in the US such artists as Meredith Monk, Joan LaBarbara, Pauline Oliveros and Ruth Zaporah, among others, have explored this area for decades. Voskopoulos seems unaware of this history.

Skin Deep has many powerful, striking moments. The celebration of the body, the feeling of deep elemental forces erupting to create movement and sound, the shafts of light which illuminate the strength and beauty of the body, do indeed combine to create the feeling of a hymn to Eros. If Voskopoulos can develop her knowledge of the voice so that it is as detailed and powerful as her knowledge of dance, she will widen her range of expression and go on to make even more powerful works.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact david (at) lakeivan.org.

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