Never mind that the description on the flyer, as "the season's most exploratory programming initiative," makes it sound like a lonely bureaucrat's long lost talking point. In fact, Other Cinema's quasi-annual New Experimental Works showcase packs so much bewitching, perplexing, WTF'ing, un-boring cinematic fringery into a single evening that it might even counteract a whole month's worth of over-serious multiplex Oscar bait.
"It's an explosion of work!" Other Cinema overlord Craig Baldwin said the other day while rummaging for preview DVD samples among the video decks, coffee mugs and scribbled notes to self hyper-cluttering his beautifully chaotic Valencia Street lair. "There's too much on this show! I really can't keep up with it!"
That's sort of how it feels to watch former local Martha Colburn's Myth Labs, a brief, throbbing, cut-out-animation history of America which begins with pilgrims spilling bags of meth from their bibles and takes it frenziedly from there. And this is only one of the evening's highlights.
There's also the jittery lyricism of Salise Hughes's Shiny Things, which affectingly cross cuts cops and robbers with a particularly haunting arrangement of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" via multi-layered, selectively erased footage from the mid-fifties genre films Violent Saturday and Pete Kelly's Blues, plus a dash of abstract-yet-iconic imagery from Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue thrown in for good measure. If this strangely resonating film speaks to a broader theme of the overall program, it's by emphasizing the sense that there really is a lot going on here.
And if the self-described "paramedia ecologist" Gerry Fialka's Jammerz seems to try a little too name-droppingly hard to celebrate the virtues of culture jamming, from the perspective of an aging white dude with a noggin full of pharmaceutical and scholastic residue, well, then you probably need to just loosen up.
All Baldwin knows is that the event wouldn't be complete without a piece from the eminent undergrounder Roger Beebe, or "my hero," as Baldwin called him. "I have a Super 8 camera that I'll pay him with," he added. Not that Beebe needs one; the two-and-a-half-minute rhythmic revelry of Beebe's TB TX Dance is famously, completely cameraless -- made with only a laser printer, some 16mm film leader, and a fine cinematic intuition.
Plus, in tribute to the recently deceased and much admired local experimentalist Bruce Conner, a clip from the not deceased but much admired local experimentalist George Kuchar's film, Tempest in a Teapot, in which Conner appears. "Everybody's having Bruce Conner tributes," Baldwin said. "I just thought it'd be nice to tip our hat to good old Bruce."
For the rest of us, or at least for cynics who consider the holiday season a time of grudging obligation to screwed-up, self-aggrandized family, some perspective might be gleaned from local media-maker Barbara Klutinis's Severing the Soul, a brief history of Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy -- complete with just enough creepy footage and creepier sound.
Or, for the lighter side of brain surgery, there's Karl Lind's Devo Karaoke, for which Lind descends from Portland to perform live vocals along with his brain-groping, Kubrick-riffing, ape-intensive video for the New Wave art-punk kitsch mongers' song "Gates of Steel."
And still, there is more. Too much, even, to account for here. So how about just one last little doozie to go out with? Of Daddy Baldwin said, "I love it. I'm howling. But it's probably going to freak some people out." Yes. Yes it is. This little gem comes from locals Eli Marias & Amos Natkin, who once said in a statement that their work "begins with the proliferation of VHS self-help tapes." In this case, it's a low-grade, circa-1982 video of two sullen-seeming boys playing with Legos and lip-synching along with a mind-alteringly cheesy, infuriatingly catchy public-service-announcement in song. (Sample lyric: "Daddy, when you gonna come home and be the daddy you're supposed to be?") But wait. There's more. In particular, the audio overlay of an over-sharing answering machine message from a father to a son on the younger fellow's 25th birthday. (Sample quotation: "How can I forget? It was the biggest day of my life. And I was the first human being, other than the doctor, who pulled you out to touch you. You were all wet... it was an interesting day.") For four and a half hilariously uncomfortable minutes, he continues, covering such topics as divorce, court orders, more birthday wishes, health problems, weird emotional blackmail, etc. The boys sing and pout and snap their Legos together. Baldwin's summarizing note taped to the DVD case: "Dark and pathetic."
Other Cinema's New Experimental Works show begins at 8:30pm on Saturday, December 20, 2008, at Artists' Television Access in San Francisco. For more information visit othercinema.com.