The film follows a young woman named Audrey Benac who delves into the archives of the New York Public Library in search of a rare recording produced in 1909 titled Veslemøy’s Song. Shot on hand-processed black and white 16mm, the film takes a docu-fiction approach to investigate the faded legacy of the once celebrated Canadian musician, Kathleen Parlow.
Its tone playful, despite its melancholic subject of a woman personally important to Bohdanowicz’s family and culturally important to her country, but lost (for now) to history, the form of the film delightfully and adroitly mixes things up. We hear Bohdanowicz in voice-over narrate her discovery, and see objects like the book, the poem, and a concerto dedicated to Parlow, that form the director’s research. Yet we also see casual reenactments where Campbell walks through the hallways of the library, the at-once amusing and horrifying futurist conversations with the unseen basement librarian, keeper of missing history, and her listening to and quietly weeping over the music. Not everything here is exactly factual, as Deragh Campbell’s presence clues us to—underlying the likelihood that Bohdanowicz’s quest to learn about this woman has its own mysterious and elusive qualities, lost to history. Shot in 16mm black and white, Veslemøy’s Song is a very handsome film that, because it has been hand-processed, has an archival, imperfect, battle-scarred texture that furthers the sense that we’re discovering part, but not all, of a larger picture. Its own little story of finding this woman and tracking down a recorded trace of her talent is satisfying and touching in its own right. But with the cleverness that is common to all of Bohdanowicz’s movies, the form her film takes suggests there is more work to be done, more history and more stories to tell, more cinema to make. (MUBI)
599MB | 8 min 32 s | 1440×1080 | mkv