From the mind to the screen to the canvas

Heidi Wicks
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Filmmaker inspired by his own work (in a matter of speaking)

Bruce Alcock first became enamored with the song "Vive la Rose" when he heard renowned Newfoundland fiddler Emile Benoit perform it on CBC Radio. That song became the inspiration for Alcock's short film of the same name, which went on to receive a 2009 Genie nomination, as well as acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, like the song, is a tragic love story set in Newfoundland. When illness takes the woman he loves, a fisherman raises his voice in melancholy song as a last farewell.

Above, "Man Rows Dory". Bottom left, "Woman Arranges Flowers", "Man Carries Wood" and "School of Codfish". Submitted photos

Bruce Alcock first became enamored with the song "Vive la Rose" when he heard renowned Newfoundland fiddler Emile Benoit perform it on CBC Radio. That song became the inspiration for Alcock's short film of the same name, which went on to receive a 2009 Genie nomination, as well as acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, like the song, is a tragic love story set in Newfoundland. When illness takes the woman he loves, a fisherman raises his voice in melancholy song as a last farewell.

Beginning June 25, images from the film will be on display in an exhibit at Christina Parker Gallery. "Painting Motion" runs until July 17 and features a series of new paintings by Alcock that capture defining moments from the film.

The filmmaker/artist uses a group of mixed-media paintings that further his exploration of the central themes of love and loss.

Despite the long, labour-intensive experience that went along with making the film, Alcock said the song and its story stuck with him.

"It's so sad! (Emile's) voice is so moving, the way it's broken and variable, the sense of pain and long life. The instrumentation was great, too, especially in the way that it starts small and simple then evolves into an improvisational feel. All the pieces together make for a very emotional, affecting piece. On first hearing, I pictured a solitary outport man, regretting the loss of a woman he loved."

The film contains more than 1,300 oil paintings, and Alcock created 15 all-new original images for the exhibit. He explained that the 15 images created for the exhibit took as long to make as about 250 of the images from the film.

"Moving images are all about a continuum - what comes before and after each image informs each image, so there's a sense of flux. For that reason, stills from animated films are often far less dynamic than they feel while the picture rolls. Stills meant to be stills have to bear the long gaze, detailed inspection, and have to tell a story without the benefit of movement. All the same, I tried to infuse the pictures with movement - they're visceral gestures, and pretty raw."

Christina Parker said the idea to exhibit Alcock's work began when Annette Clark of the National Film Board (NFB) gave her a copy of the film.

"After viewing the film, I felt that I had to be involved in some way to share this culturally significant work with gallery patrons," she said. "I thought that a gallery installation of all the elements that made the film would be magnificent. Annette put Bruce and I together and we decided then that the idea could be expanded into Bruce making a series of paintings that explored the central themes and defining moments in the film."

Back to those themes of love and loss.

Alcock explained that both the film and the exhibit aim to expose a man's damaged psyche.

"In Emile Benoit's version of this song, a man loves a woman but he knows there are handsomer men out there. She dies, and he can't bring himself to visit the grave. I always felt that he loved her desperately but from afar - in fact, that she died without ever knowing he loved her. And that when she died, he lost his capacity to love, starting a lifelong downward spiral of loneliness. So, he never lost her because he never had her. His love was empty because he never approached her, but all the more deeply felt because he kept it all inside."

Although he has been working as an artist in animation for 20 years, Alcock hopes that this is his first of many gallery shows.

"Painting Motion" is a collaboration between Bruce Alcock, the NFB and the Christina Parker Gallery. Through the NFB's technical assistance, there will be a rear projection screening of "Vive la Rose" during the exhibit, which will be visible after dark on opening day, June 25.

For more information, call the Christina Parker Gallery at 753-0580.

If you'd like to see "Vive la Rose," it's playing as part of the Nickel Film Festival, 7:30 p.m. tonight at the LSPU Hall in St. John's.

Heidi Wicks writes the blog "Wicks on Flix." Read it at www.thetelegram.com.

Organizations: National Film Board, CBC Radio

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Toronto, St. John's

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