untitled review in Cinema Canada No. 132


by Michael Dorland (Cinema Canada No. 132, July/August 1986)
I was particularly impressed by Toronto experimentalist Michael Cartmell’s three films (May 24), made between 1984-85, Cartouche,Prologue: Infinite Obscure, and In the form of the letter “X”. If Cartmell describes his films, Infinite Obscure in particular, as “a remake of Moby Dick,” and that’s by no means an erroneous description, his work seemed to me more a visual and verbal running commentary upon the conference’s feminist theorizations. Cartmell implacably explores and deconstructs from within, via a profoundly Bazinian cinema that is all mummification effects, the great male signifiers of Sex, Death, Cinema, and God. Cartmell’s films are filled with floating, talking heads that scream their negativity, bloodlust, rapine and savagery, all in the name of a dead god: “I shudder at the rigor of the ancient Egyptians,” says a voice in Cartouche against images of the great pyramids, “it was here that the idea of Jehovah was born.” Profound explorations of the “hideous allegory” (Melville) of naming Cartmell’s films, if much about the death of God the father, are also, in the loving images of Cartmell’s son Sam, about the growth of the son/sun, and so too cinema, but within the recognition that film images are only meaningful as signs of death (past or future).