VIFF 2009: Narratives without actors

At this year's edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival (October 1 to 16), there are a surprisingly large number of narratives without actors in the usual sense of the word.

These include Johan Grimonprez's Double Take (Belgium), a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the history of the Cold War told mainly with the help of a professional Alfred Hitchcock "double" and cameo shots of the Master of Suspense himself.

Equally dependent on found footage is William Karel's Empire State Building Murders (France). Cobbling together clips from classic movies starring the likes of Kirk Douglas (who makes a very brief, contemporary appearance), James Cagney, and Lauren Bacall, Karel plays his bluff with the aid of a script co-authored by Jerome Charyn (New York's cultiest crime novelist) and voice-over narration enunciated by Ben Gazzara. He thereby creates a mystery with the aid of other pre-existing mysteries and a contemporary story concocted from the tropes of the past.

A somewhat more sombre approach is taken in Peter Liechti's The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy (Switzerland). Relying exclusively on subjective camerawork to make its points, this downbeat Swiss drama is essentially the filmed diary of a depressive determined to starve himself to death. What we see is what he sees, while he hides from this world and waits for the next.  Odd to be sure, and not to everyone's taste, but a brilliant example of how much can be done with minimal cinematic means.

For showtimes and full details for these films, visit the Vancouver International Film Festival Web site.