FLicKer review

Happy trails
Cormac Rea

DJ Spooky and the fantastic dream machine
photo: Nik Sheehan

Drug-free hallucinations with FLicKeR

Imagine your regular weekday night. You get home from work, eat supper and settle down for a little R&R. Maybe a bottle of wine is uncorked, fireplace is stoked, the spine of a good book is cracked or an interesting movie begins to play on the tube-slash-computer. Life at its most simple: a full tummy, a spot of tipple and the comforting blue light of electronics. Think again. FLicKeR, a National Film Board of Canada documentary written and directed by Nik Sheehan, presents a fascinating alternative to this typical modern ritual.Canadian Brion Gysin (1916-1986) is a name that will resonate with many visual artists for his invention of the widely used cut-up technique. But, for the masses, his name is generally unknown. That may change. FLicKeR is the story of his lesser known invention – the dream machine – that Gysin hoped would revolutionize the world’s living rooms and dens. A simple device, the dream machine features a bright light inside a rotating cylinder with cut-out patterns to create a pulse of 8-13 Hz. The pulse of light is the exact frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which are utilized when dreaming or being creative. Essentially, as one sits in front of the dream machine with eyes closed, the patterned and flickering light triggers your subconscious to react (i.e., images, dreams or hallucinatory narratives ensue). A drug-free trip for the whole family!

A soulmate of famous writer William S. Burroughs, Gysin’s world was the heady experimentation of the Beat poets

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and expat bohemia. Director Sheehan even interviews the curator of the infamous “Beat Hotel” that Gysin inhabited in Paris for a spell, tracing the history of an eccentric man who was both friend to the surrealist painters of the ’30s and counter espionage spy during WWII. Featuring archival footage of Burroughs and Gysin, FLicKeR also features commentary from Marianne Faithful, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and DJ Spooky.

A thoroughly engrossing film, if not simply for the remarkably functional dream machine, FLicKeR profiles an era of existential discovery long departed. I wouldn’t recommend it for a romantic Valentine’s date, but, if you ask nicely, the folks at the Mayfair may give you a free ride on their very own dream machine. Now that’s hot.

@ Mayfair Theatre
Feb. 13-17

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