Michael Snow (1928-2023)

Why do I make films? Because they didn’t exist. I’m not particularly interested in films in general. But I make the ones I make to see the films I want to see. This is about seeing what I want to see and thinking what I want to think. My films are for everyone but they are first for me. – Michael Snow1

Canadian painter, jazz pianist, photographer, sculptor and filmmaker Michael Snow passed away on 5 January. He was best known for Wavelength (1967) – a 45-minute cinematic exploration of a loft, which starts with a long shot that shows the whole space and ends with a close shot of a photo on the wall between two windows. Wavelength, hailed by critic Manny Farber as “a pure, tough 45 minutes that may become the Birth of a Nation in Underground film,” provided 20th-century cinema with a visceral metaphor for itself as temporal projection.

Snow was a prolific and playful artist, of extraordinary versatility. “I am not a professional,” he declared in a statement written in 1967. “My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter, music by a filmmaker, paintings by a sculptor, sculpture by a filmmaker, films by a musician, music by a sculptor. Sometimes they all work together. Also, many of my paintings have been done by a painter, sculpture by a sculptor, films by a filmmaker, music by a musician. There is a tendency towards purity in all of these media as separate endeavors.”2

In 2020 Brandon Kaufman interviewed Michael Snow for Sabzian via e-mail, you can find their conversation here.

So Is This (Michael Snow, 1982)So Is This (Michael Snow, 1982)

Front Image: Michael Snow with a solo show at the Canadian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1970 (Telescope/CBC Archives).

  • 1Michael Snow’s response to the question « Pourquoi filmez-vous ? » [Why do you make films?] in a special issue of Libération, May 1987.
  • 2Michael Snow, Collected Writings of Michael Snow (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994), 26-27. Originally published in 1967 in the exhibition catalogue Statements / 18 Canadian Artists (MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina).
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