Tess Girard (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Friday, April 29, 7 p.m.
The Royal Cinema (608 College Street)
Saturday, May 7, 6:30 p.m.
The Cumberland (159 Cumberland Street)
Sunday, May 8, 3:45 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
Is there such a thing as a universal beat? In this heady experimental documentary, Toronto-based filmmaker and visual artist Tess Girard asks a group of scientists and artists to explain the nature of rhythm, and frames snippets of their replies against a backdrop of meditative natural cinematography. The result is a thought-provoking mood piece with a cadence all its own.
One subject sees a universal pulse in the circadian rhythms built into nearly every living organism. A mathematician finds rhythm in the dense dynamics of chaos theory. A parapsychologist claims that our brain rhythms register collectively on a global scale. And a music psychologist argues that the tendency to follow a beat is innately ingrained within our own psyche.
It might sound like a lot to take in one sitting—and it is. Girard intentionally hits us with more than we can handle, layering provocative insight on top of provocative insight without developing any one idea in depth. While her visceral approach succeeds in conveying a childlike zeal for the topic, it makes it hard for the viewer to walk away with anything concrete. More akin to a visual art installation than a documentary feature, A Simple Rhythm is filled with plenty of intriguing nibbles, but not a whole lot to chew on.