A valedictory to late vid artist Colin Campbell, a look at Campbell’s friends and lovers and a consideration of the Cold War rolled into one, “Fascination” sets an elegant, high-water mark for writer-helmer Mike Hoolboom, one of Canada’s most intriguing nonnarrative filmmakers. Deserving recipient of a career survey at the Buenos Aires fest, Hoolboom should find considerable interest in this brilliantly textured biopic-that’s-not-a-biopic, which launched at Rotterdam and is a sure thing for adventurous and gay-themed confabs around the globe.
As a gay artist with a keen interest in visual media — and one of the first in Canada to take up video as a legit art form — Campbell forged a trail that Hoolboom has followed, although in a distinctly different style.
Campbell’s lifespan (1942-2001) roughly matches that of the Cold War, and “Fascination” is built on these two parallel tracks. A third strand features Campbell’s companions generally seen facing the lens, as if speaking to Campbell directly. The same style of footage was shot by Hoolboom, as well, and is mixed in seamlessly.
“Fascination” is a sustained dream state in which Hoolboom interweaves his threads. Included are clips from 22 Campbell videos1972-2001. His final work provides a particularly touching moment, with Campbell saying to his camera, “I, too, have unfulfilled desires.”
In a series of bold strokes that could easily have backfired, Hoolboom succeeds in linking Campbell’s personal life (coming out as a gay man, for instance), his art and the era of the Bomb in a form that resembles visual music. The work of both Hoolboom and Campbell also comment on the debilitating state of commercial television.
Editor Mark Karbusicky and Hoolboom masterfully blend the widely disparate archive and newly shot material. Uncredited sound work is densely designed.