Michael Snow is best known for his influential 1967 film Wavelength, which remains one of the landmarks of structuralist cinema. Already an accomplished musician, sculptor, painter, and photographer in his native Canada when he became interested in film after moving to New York in the early '60s, he saw filmmaking as a natural extension of his other artmaking activities. His first film, New York Eye and Ear Control, incorporated the "Walking Woman" figure he had already employed in a series of widely-exhibited paintings and sculptures.
His subsequent films investigate the medium's formal possibilities and are often structured on the mechanical properties of the camera itself. Wavelength is organized around a 42-minute zoom across a New York City loft. His next film, Back and Forth, is built around continuous horizontal and vertical pans across a classroom. These experiments reached their logical extreme with La Région Centrale, for which he built a computer-controlled apparatus which could move the camera in any direction at any speed and set it up in the Canadian wilderness north of Montreal.
Snow was never particularly interested in movies while growing up and his approach to filmmaking reflects an experimental impulse unburdened by cinematic tradition. Much of his work focuses on film's effects on perception. One Second in Montreal forces the audience to confront their own perception of time and duration by presenting a series of landscape photographs for varying lengths of time. "Rameau's Nephew" by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen improvises on the possibilities of synch sound for more than four hours and See You Later/Au Revoir uses slow motion to create an elegant study of movement. Though he remains known in the United States primarily for his contributions to avant-garde film, Snow has continued to work in other media throughout his career. In Canada, he is equally well-known for his painting and sculpture, and was even commissioned to make the monumental sculptures that adorn Toronto's Skydome stadium.