Movies encapsulate our mythic past, time capsules of how we lived. In the case of filmmaker Vivian Ostrovsky’s Ice/Sea, they specifically reveal our playtime rites. This high-energy short collages shots of Arctic life with retro vacationland footage of humans lounging in the sand—a jokey nostalgia wank that cuts from beached animals to sunbathing humans and Elvis serenading his bride in Aloha From Hawaii to penguins courting atop sheets of ice. On the Avant-Garde Richter Scale, Ostrovsky’s mondo-stoner experiment registers a one, a far cry from Decasia and Wavelength. Which is to say, there’s no formal vigor or significant point to her old-and-new mismatch, but it’s a trip nonetheless—more so, I imagine, for anyone who smokes a spliff beforehand. The funniest moment occurs right at the start: A community of party-happening beach people is gripped in fast-motion panic when a lion (!), then a car, emerges from the water.
In Nicolas Philibert’s 1994 film Animals and More Animals, the lion is stuffed (with straw) and spruced up, like countless other animals, for its reemergence as a centerpiece in the legendary Museum of Natural History in Paris. The film opens with a modern-day evocation of Noah’s Ark: A truck travels down a Parisian highway, the heads of animals peeking out from its side. A student of Frederick Wiseman, Philibert scans the minutia of the museum’s revitalization as if his camera were a microscope, obsessed with the peculiarity of human hands rejuvenating the skins and hairs of taxidermied wild things. If cinema is a gallery of mythic exhibits, this film represents a strange diorama of hermetic work and living. Both Ostrovsky and Philibert remind us of our place in the animal kingdom. For them, the world is their specimen.