Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008

Tate Bunker's Trilogy

By David Luhrssen
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The short film Perceval is dedicated to Ingmar Bergman and no one familiar with The Seventh Seal will miss what if holds in common with the gloomy Swedish classic. Aside from the medieval setting and knightly allusions, Perceval reflects on social breakdown in a stark landscape of desolation. Directed by Milwaukee filmmaker Tate Bunker, it includes many gorgeous moments of cinematography—of bare trees stretched like picket fences across the newly woven mantle of spring green.

Perceval is one third of “Trilogy of Light,” which will be screened along with several of Bunker’s other shorts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20 at the Oriental Theatre. On the surface the trio of short films are considerably different but according to Bunker, each focuses on a “central character on a journey or quest to obtain the unobtainable. The metaphor for the unobtainable is light.”

The award-winning Starlight is a whimsical yet strangely affecting story of a space explorer who builds a rocket powered by music. It’s Bunker’s one film that bears comparison to Guy Maddin for playfully integrating archival footage and gestures from bygone media into the narrative. A still photographer as well as a filmmaker, Bunker understands how to compose the found elements of reality into engaging pictures.

The trilogy’s newest third, The Albatross, receives its premiere on Thursday. The enigmatic retelling of the old seafaring story features a human actor as a disturbingly monstrous bird, discovered on the icy shores of the sea (Lake Michigan?) by a gaunt Edwardian figure.

An interest in fairytales and mythic stories, whether drawn from folklore or pop culture, permeate the trilogy. “The films all take place in make believe places,” Bunker says. “The creation of unknown worlds and laws excites and inspires me. Once in such locations I can explore and do whatever.” As short films they bare less of a burden to tell their stories straightforwardly. Bunker cites Stanley Kubrick along with Bergman and Martin Scorsese as signposts for what he is trying to reach in “maximizing the language of film” through visual storytelling. For Bunker, the paradoxes of fairytales are similar to the cinema of imagination. “When I watch a film and I am confused, that’s when I get excited—film as a riddle

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