Neil Young’s Film Lounge – *Corpus Callosum



Canada 2001 : Michael SNOW : 92 mins

At the end of *Corpus Callosum, were shown Michael Snows first ever film a one-minute black-and-white line-cartoon from 1956 in which a waving man kicks out his right leg over and over, the leg getting longer and longer, loopier and loopier each time. Its a single, simple gag, and its quite nice – but nowhere near sufficient reward for enduring the 91 minutes of torture that have gone before.

Though the septuagenarian Snow has for decades been acclaimed as a maestro of world avant-garde and experimental cinema, youd be forgiven for thinking that *Corpus Callosum was knocked up by first-year (perhaps even first week) film students monkeying around with a digital special-effects computer program. Theyd also probably know no better than to come up with such an idiotic title, which, needless to say, is never explained or even mentioned during the action of this plotless film – that asterisk is also an especially grating affectation.

We have two main settings an office and a hyper-stylised living room. Various talentless, badly-dressed actors move around these spaces or, more often, remain static. Snow occasionally manipulates the picture to make their bodies twist into bizarre shapes, to make background features explode, melt or zoom off, among other rather half-hearted flights of whimsy. The soundtrack has two principal features: buzzing sounds of varying pitch and intensity, and the faint but audible voice of Snow himself giving prosaic direction to his performers.

To be fair, there are one or two moments of invention along the way as when two people try to enter a toilet door simultaneously, only to fuse into a single jelly-like oblong block which then walks around the office space. But such highlights are very few and far between. Everything seems to happen agonisingly slowly, and many sequences are elongated and/or repeated way beyond most viewers boredom thresh-hold.

Snow seems inordinately fond of uninspired visual tricks, games and jokes at one point, the performers are instructed to look as though they are all ears during a business meeting: Snow freezes the frame and briefly superimposes large comic ears onto their heads. His attempts at surrealism, meanwhile, seldom rise above the grindingly sophomoric its truly depressing that such a lauded film-maker should be so thoroughly unimaginative in terms of ideas and images.

The best gag of all is that the end credits featuring an absurdly lengthy list of cast members come at the 53-minute mark. Even if audiences have somehow managed to stay awake this long, they’d be well advised to take Snows hint and vacate the theatre at this juncture. If its avant-garde North American cinema youre after, James Benning provides an austere but accessible entrance point those in search of a genuinely experimental and groundbreaking Canadian visionary, meanwhile, should look no further than David Cronenberg.

12th June, 2003
(seen same day: Cineside)

For other films rated 1 or 2 check out our Diorama of Dishonour

by Neil Young