October 13, 2007
Volto sorpreso al buio (Face Caught in the Dark), 1995
One of the highlights from the 2006 Views from the Avant-Garde sidebar was the first public screening of a Paolo Gioli program in the country, and this year, the festival continues to reinforce Gioli's singular reputation by screening another of his sadly underseen works: the gorgeously ethereal, densely constructed, and mesmerizing Volto sorpreso al buio. Gioli assembles a self-described "impossible film" out of images recovered from found photographic plates from the 1950s (some of which were also used in the composition of his book Sconosciuti), creating imaginary apparitions of mutated, "new identities" out of interchanging fragments of unknown faces from the past. Part found film reconstitution of extracted composite images, and part somber impressionism in the splicing, stitching, overlaying, scratching, lighting, and modulated exposure of the black and white studio portraits into a continuous film reel, Volto sorpreso al buio transcends its seemingly facile constructive premise as the chronicled metamorphosis of a solitary portrait. Rather, in invoking the specter of the titular, suspended "face caught in the dark" as it organically transforms, each gentle sweep of the partial traces of facial features, contours, mannerisms, and expressions becomes a commemorative gesture within a haunted slipstream of passing time, where the ghosts of dissolving, anonymous identities re-assimilate into a collective memory and, for a brief moment, are brought to life again.