MIRAGE - 1983 / 7:00 / 16mm to HD

Mirage offers a thoughtful and disturbing meditation on a wide variety of cinematic problems - the portrayal of women in film, the ability of a reassuring male commentary (“Dreams come true in Blue Hawaii”) to direct our gaze and our conventions of fantasy/dreamland. The film tests ones ability to pay attention. We keep seeing essentially the same image and hearing the same phrase yet we have a difficulty grasping what this film is about. The film has a mystery or haunting feeling to it that perhaps surfaces after one has seen it, and is the basis of thought on the subject of the sexual portrayal of women on film.Mirage could be seen many times; perhaps the tail could be spliced to the head resulting in a continuous loop - as there is no clear beginning, middle, or end to the film – somewhat like the nature of our own existence.
— Martin Rumsby

Mirage is a brief film litany between a male off-screen voice and the on-screen picture of a nude Polynesian woman which is superimposed with imagery from Hawaii – traditionally a place of fantasy, vacation, and pleasure. On some levels this film is a travelogue. The film’s form, however, subverts this possibility – becoming instead a denouncement of the dominant male gaze. We watch a woman disrobe on the beach over and over while the male voice (Elvis Presley) repeats, “Dreams come true in Blue Hawaii”. This repetition tends to numb the initial reaction of male lust and when the external imagery becomes strong, as in the Pearl Harbor sequence, one forgets about the nudity or sexual content. In some ways Mirage test ones ability to pay attention. We keep seeing essentially the same image and hearing the same phrase yet we have difficulty grasping what this film is about. Should we enjoy it or despise it in relation to feminist approaches to cinema?Mirage has a mystery or haunting feeling to it that perhaps surfaces after one has seen it, and is the basis of thought for discussion on the subject of the sexual portrayal of women on film. The original footage of the woman is from a super8 film titled “The Naughty Wahine”. This footage is clearly meant to capture this visage of a naked woman so that her image may arouse desires for a non-participatory audience. Curiously the personality and innocence of the individual portrayed does survive in this clip and when repeated many times begins to subvert the original intention of “The Naughty Wahine” film. Mirage could be seen many times; perhaps the tail could be spliced to the head resulting in a continuous loop - as there is no clear beginning, middle, or end to the film – somewhat like the nature of our own existence.
—Martin Rumsby; The Invisible Cinema, 1986

Mirage offer a thoughtful and disturbing meditation on a wide variety of cinematic problems – the portrayal of women on film, the ability of a reassuring male commentary (“Dreams come true in Blue Hawaii”) to direct our gaze, and our conventions of fantasy/dreamland. Mirage attempts to highlight, then subvert, some of the tricks and illusions of mainstream cinematic practice and is, essentially, a film about looking and the ways in which we derive meaning from cinema. In Mirage we are presented with a shot of a Hawaiian woman disrobing. This shot is looped and repeated throughout the length of the film. As we keep seeing this looped image repeating itself again and again we begin to see it differently from how it first appeared. The voyeuristic aspect of the shot is subverted both by its constant repetition and also by the images that are superimposed over the image of the woman.Mirage helps us to see that film can be used in many ways to communicate meaning: that mainstream cinema, television and even the editing theories of Eisenstein and Pudovkin are limited.
— Martin Rumsby; The Invisible Cinema, 1989