The Case of the Vanishing Gods

"... with Freud, strangeness, the uncanny, imperceptibly penetrates the calm and serenity of reason itself," writes philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in her book “Strangers to Ourselves”. Hugo, a distraught ventriloquist's puppet on the loose, knows a thing or two about it. The poor guy suffers from a severe identity crisis. On the verge of collapse, he seeks help from Dr. Labyrinth, the pixelated version of a human psychoanalyst who, through hypnosis, manages to rake up Hugo's buried memories. But what is this quirky, genre-crossing film about? To begin with, it is about the fascinating history of ventriloquism from its demonic-divine origins to modern entertainment art. Yet, this cinematic exploration of the sinister relationship between puppet and puppeteer goes way beyond the topic of ventriloquism. Hugo's personal affliction points to a more general problem: the unstable relationship between reality, imitation, and imagination. With ease, Ross Lipman (“Notfilm”, DOKUARTS 2016) builds bridges from Hugo’s story to film and the relationship between film and life. He interlaces scenes from horror films, archive footage and puppet madness in brilliant and funny ways to create a film that is all this: document, fiction, dream interpretation and philosophical contemplation. Watching this film, we still won’t gain calm and serenity of reason, but amazement, laughter and goosebumps are guaranteed: Expect the Unexpected!

Ross Lipman

Ross Lipman is a filmmaker, essayist, and archivist. Formerly Senior Film Restorationist at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, his restorations include Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep", Kent Mackenzie's "The Exiles", "The Times of Harvey Milk", and works by Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Shirley Clarke, Kenneth Anger, Barbara Loden, Robert Altman, Bruce Conner, and John Cassavetes. Lipman's films have screened internationally and been collected by museums and institutions including the Oberhausen Kurzfilm Archive, Budapest's Balazs Bela Studios, The Academy Film Archive, and the Anthology Film Archives. His documentary feature "Notfilm" (2015) premiered at the London International Film Festival. Lipman’s writings on film history, technology, and aesthetics have been published in Artforum, Sight and Sound, and numerous academic books and journals. His most recent live documentary, "The Exploding Digital Inevitable on Bruce Conner’s Crossroads", premiered in 2017 at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and was screened at the 2018 edition of DOKUARTS.