Mike Hoolboom

2002, 53:00 minutes, colour, English


“A dazzling experimental documentary about notorious cineaste Tom Chomont. Tom narrates his recollections and transgressions against a dizzying array of found footage, video, super-8 and photographs. At moments, he appears in front of the camera, alternately flamboyant or fragile. His revelations cover a broad scope from sadomasochistic desire through existential vulnerability to an incestuous relationship. With this extraordinary portrait, Hoolboom creates a different kind of biography film, one that eschews traditional mimetic realism in order to depict the reminiscences of a fading life lived in the throes of image culture.” Diane Burgess, Vancouver Festival

“Tom is a visually choreographed thought-scape, intermingling footage of Tom with found and archival footage ranging from the erecting of the Empire State building to Hollywood classics to much more abstract images, the film weaves Tom’s daily life and struggle with AIDS with distant memories and present fantasies.” Reeling Festival

“An uncommon biography of Tom Chomont-a key figure in New York fringe culture, a notorious video artist, ill with AIDS. The backdrop of the story: New York City… Hoolboom adopts an associative approach, taking dozens of film segments, from forgotten newsreels to the most well-known Hollywood moments-attempting through them to rebuild Chomont’s biography. The stories elucidate the fabric of the image and give them meaning: childhood memories, stories of incest, a mobster’s love or even the great white light that for Chomont symbolizes the beginning and end of life. The other star is New York City, images of which from various periods and from often incongruous angles play a part here. Utilizing all these visual elements, he constructs a new, fictitious biography that fills in the gaps left by memory and by those things located on the hidden side of the subconscious. The end result is a work with hypnotic effect-an uncommon experience.” Vivian Ostrovsky, Jerusalem Film Festival Catalogue

“Tom is a celebration of cinema and friendship—a dialogue between filmmakers. Hoolboom’s images mix and meld with those he has begged, borrowed and stolen. These are then punctuated with excerpts from many of Chomont’s own works, ranging from 1968′s Phases of the Moon to such 90s films as Sadistic Self Portrait and Head Shot. Attended by a sound design that is hauntingly beautiful, Tom is a deeply evocative portrait of a life lived through art—and an unforgettable testament to the friendship and respect these two men share.” Liz Czach, Toronto International Festival

“The maven of Toronto’s experimental film scene makes a sojourn to New York to pay tribute to a fellow artist: Tom Chomont, the maker of underground films such as Phases of the Moon and Sadistic Self-Portrait. In Tom , Hoolboom has created a typically idiosyncratic sort of biography, combining interview footage of Chomont (now suffering from AIDS and Parkinsons) with ‘found’ footage drawn largely from Hollywood and documentary sources, as well as Chomont’s movies. The subject’s personal history-an incredible story involving incest and New York’s gay fetish scene-is a powerful through-line for Hoolboom’s avalanche of gorgeous imagery.” Jason Anderson, Eye Magazine

“Prolific Canadian experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom pays tribute to a colleague in Tom… Mixing bits of stock footage and Hollywood images (along with clips from Chomont’s 30-plus years of filmmaking) in a rapid, allusive montage that follows the narration, the film creates a window on the possibilities of pure strangeness of one person’s life.” Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

“A prismatic portrait of New York artist Tom Chomont, Mike Hoolboom’s latest is remarkable most for its approach. When one of Canada’s best filmmakers chooses to abandon shooting new footage in favour of found images it counts as a manifesto. Tom tells the story of Chomont’s life and work in glimpses using thousands of shards gathered mostly from other films. But unlike most remixes, Hoolboom does not attempt to collect the audience into a mnemonic whole, forcing us to recall the original source of the footage and comparing it to present use. Instead, he uses archive images the way authors use nouns.” Cameron Bailey, NOW

‘One of the pleasures of the fetish scene is you don’t have to be beautiful to be a narcissist,’ says New York filmmaker Tom Chomont. ‘All of the ugly kids from high school can have their day in the spotlight.’ It’s hard to believe that Chomont was ever one of the ugly kids, but he certainly gets his day in the spotlight in this avant-garde documentary by Mike Hoolboom. In Tom, Chomont’s life unfurls in a style as unique as his own story. Found footage and archival film (including a fascinating survey of New York City over the years), home movies, photos and new video ‘stream past in a hypnotic rush’, says Hoolboom, ‘offering a subject whose skin is cinema, whose flesh and blood have been remade into the picture plane.’ Add in Chomont’s recollections of infanticide, sex with his own brother, S&M, fetishism, visions of a white light that illuminates both the beginning and end of life, and excerpts from some of his own films, and Tom evolves into a deeply emotional portrait of a lifelong outlaw now battling both HIV and Parkinson’ disease. This is a film that evokes as much as it depicts, and alludes as much as it describes. Hoolboom calls it ‘cinema as deja vu or deja voodoo’. We call it one of the most spellbinding and unforgettable films in this year’s festival.” San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Festival

“He was astonished at the course that life could take, at the way things that had seemed once to concern him so much—indeed to revolve around him—could turn out to have nothing to do with him at all.” Michael Chabon

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