Shot over a period of two years in Paris, Sao Paulo and Toronto, Invention is the first feature film by Mark Lewis. From famous corners of the Louvre Museum to the modernist buildings of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil and Mies van der Rohe in Canada, Lewis takes us on a dynamic tour of fluctuating cityscapes, capturing the texture of these places, their landmarks, and the people who inhabit their streets and buildings, with images of glass, light, shifting reflections, hard concrete, spiral staircases – and paintings.
An homage to the City Symphony films of the 1920s, Invention offers a searching love letter to urban spaces, art and cinema. The films’ various takes on contemporary city life juxtaposed with images of paintings in major museums opens up a way of thinking about art, architecture and the moving image. Lewis suggests that the moving images and the camera that makes them possible have forever altered our way of perceiving our place in the landscape.
A film by Mark Lewis generally features long takes that linger on particular details before drifting off to find echoes or surprises elsewhere in the landscape, and the films are silent. In Invention, he takes this signature mode to another level, editing the takes together, creating links between the scenes and adding sound at the beginning and end. The opening music is a nod to early silent films when a pianist would play as the audience arrived and took their seats, while the closing soundscape is more of a score that changes the tone and atmosphere of the films – the music intervenes, the pace quickens and the film transforms from meditative images to a motion picture. As the anthology ends, the feature film begins – as if simply by placing a lens in the landscape, Lewis allowed the camera itself to come to life and invent cinema.
Whenever I travel, I always have fleeting moments of ongoing regret that I don’t spend enough time soaking in architecture, looking at expensive art in museums, standing in a city square and slowly looking at every detail in my view, side stepping sidewalk poetry, smiling at locals and finally inhaling a different kind of life far from my everyday reality back home.
Invention from Mark Lewis is the perfect anecdote for those moments. It will encourage you to breathe in your next mini adventure or on going journey. It will remind you of what you may have missed out on, take deep breaths of adulation, shelve your diet for a day and taste that expensive cake in a bakery window, skip to the beat of a street musician and set your mobile phone on a reminder to look for arty sequenced souvenirs whilst in transit to reflect upon later.
Indeed the Paris and Sao Paulo shots were grand. But my home town of Toronto went for the Gold. The most moving was being a voyeur into the City Hall landscape. A usual haunt for me as I walk through it on my lunch break. But in Invention, the snow-capped landings, a lone biker making donuts on ice, cheeky bodies running on the rarely photographed City Hall Bridge and singular skaters full of contemplation. I now see the space as a quiet communal city refuge.
Long gone are the hot summer concerts, families full of exuberance and fallen ice creams. It was a beautiful reminder of how much we take our city for granted in all its concrete glory.
With its cathedral aerial views littered with sauntering forms, drives down dark streets headed nowhere and an ode to sweeping organic panoramic shots of these three cities – Invention is cinema at its finest. Check it out at TIFF next week!