(b. January 20, 1942 Vancouver, British Columbia)
A Vancouver-based experimental filmmaker and teacher, David Rimmer is, next to Michael Snow, Canada’s best-known and most internationally acclaimed film artist. His frequently contemplative films investigate both the nature of the film medium and the quality of perception and go beyond the structuralist/materialist approach to film: they explore the structure of the medium, yet simultaneously operate on a metaphoric or poetic level.
Rimmer studied economics and math at the University of British Columbia before doing graduate work in English at Simon Fraser University. He emerged as a young visionary in the late sixties with Square Inch Field (1968) and Migration (1969), two films that, in the words of film critic Tony Reif, celebrate "the interconnectedness of all things." His films of the early seventies – Surfacing on the Thames (1970), Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper (1970), The Dance (1970) and Seashore (1971) – drew acclaim for incorporating anonymous stock footage and thus taking structural film in new directions.
Rimmer moved temporarily to New York and, between 1971 and 1974, worked with a variety of media including video, dance, performance, installation and film, often with such vanguard artists as Yvonne Ranier. His films of this period were concerned with the unfolding of time, a theme best exemplified by Real Italian Pizza (1971), which condenses six months of New York street life into twelve minutes. He returned to Vancouver in 1974 and made Canadian Pacific (1974) and Canadian Pacific II (1975), which helped establish him as one of the world’s foremost cinematic artists.
In the early eighties, Rimmer took a four-year hiatus from filmmaking to teach film and video at Simon Fraser University. He marked his return with Bricolage (1984), which established him as a master of the collage aesthetic; it also personifies Rimmer’s characteristic technique of slowing down the viewer’s perception of images and events. Rimmer also began to experiment more with video in the eighties and his most compelling and intricate work of this period – As Seen on TV (1986) and Divine Mannequin (1989) – represents the hybridization of video and film.
Rimmer’s more recent films – most notably Black Cat White Cat It’s a Good Cat if it Catches the Mouse (1989) and Local Knowledge (1992) – have merged his philosophical and aesthetic preoccupations in a striking, stylistic mix of documentary and diary, infused with the insistent interrogations of image and epistemology that are evident in his earlier work.
Rimmer has assembled a remarkable body of meditative, subtle films that expose and investigate the material properties of the very images of which they are constituted. Film theorist Blaine Allan, in his essay published in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, has encapsulated Rimmer’s accomplishments by stating he "is not simply exploring how we see nor solely what we see, but the space between the two and the interaction and processes of what we see and how we see it. The spectator is called upon to share in the experiences of exploration and, while a filmmaker such as Brakhage demonstrates the way he himself sees, Rimmer shows us the multiplicity of ways of seeing in general."
Each of Rimmer’s films is a unique experience. While it is difficult to cite any one of them as central to his work, Surfacing on the Thames – which was widely heralded in Canada, but initially overlooked internationally – belongs in the same class as Snow’s Wavelength (1967).
Film and video work includes
Knowplace, 1967 (co-director with Sylvia Spring, Bob Herbison)
Square Inch Field, 1968 (director)
Migration, 1969 (director)
Landscape, 1970 (director)
Blue Movie, 1970 (director)
Headend, 1970 (director)
Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper, 1970 (director)
The Dance, 1970 (director)
Forest Industry, 1970 (director; cinematographer)
Seashore, 1971 (director)
Real Italian Pizza, 1971 (director)
Treefall, 1971 (director)
Watching for the Queen, 1973 (director)
Fracture, 1973 (director)
Home Movies, 1979 (production assistant)
Al Neil/A Portrait, 1980 (director; editor; producer)
Narrows Inlet, 1980 (director; sound)
Shades of Red, 1982 (co-director with Paula Ross; editor; co-producer with Paula Ross)
Bricolage, 1984 (director; writer; producer)
Sisyphus, 1985 (director; sound; sound editing; producer)
Along the Road to Altamira, 1986 (director; producer)
As Seen on TV, 1986 (director)
Roadshow, 1987 (director)
Divine Mannequin, 1989 (director; producer)
Black Cat White Cat It's a Good Cat if it Catches the Mouse. Deng Xiaopeng., 1989 (director; writer; cinematographer; editor; producer)
Beaubourg Boogie Woogie, 1991 (director; producer)
Local Knowledge, 1992 (director; producer)
Perestroyka, 1992 (director; cinematographer; sound; sound editing; producer)
Amigo's Blue Guitar, 1992 (music score)
Tiger, 1994 (director)
Pod Jaszczurami, 1994 (director)
Against the Grain, Through the Lens series, 1996 (appears as himself)
Film as Art, Through the Lens series, 1996 (appears as himself)
Codes of Conduct, 1997 (director)
Jack Wise: Language of the Body, 1998 (director; co-cinematographer with Lynka Belanger, Taki Bluesinger; editor)
Language of the Brush, 1998 (director; TV)
An Eye for an Eye, 2003 (director)
Gathering Storm, 2003 (director; animator; editor)