Movies » Movie Critic's Choice

Avant-Garde Films

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This first program of X-Film Chicago's new season is one of its best, but with a twist: the strongest films explore existing genres but become extreme enough to also transform themselves. Mark Street's Lilting Towards Chaos is not the only autobiographical film about a diffident protagonist, but it's so relentlessly flat and so pointedly affectless that it becomes a kind of antiautobiography--one wonders if the narrator even has a life. The paranoid fantasies implied by Mark Nugent's Manual Labor--that a large drug company is distributing LSD, for instance--have been aired before, and the film's aggressive tone is a bit unpleasant at first. But Nugent uses optical printing to make images appear within objects in the frame--even a car steering wheel has a scene within it--until this metaphor for unhinged perception has you feeling that the whole world is coming unwound. Perhaps most original is Mondo Dollo by Russ Pedro, a middle-aged Rhode Islander who works in isolation and hasn't exhibited his films in decades. This bizarre animation involves mostly G.I. Joe dolls: one wanders through a miniature art museum until it's attacked by a sculpture; two others have a gunfight. The vignettes aren't really connected except by the overall nuttiness of the conception and a homoerotic undercurrent (which in these liberated times I found charming as applied only to dolls). The film ends with a montage parody of fashion images involving one doll in Calvin Klein-like poses in what turns out to be an "ad" for "bun joys" jeans. None of these films is a masterpiece, but they're evidence that quirky sensibilities are still flourishing. Also on the program are films by Stephanie Barber and Bea Bellino. Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln, Sunday, September 22, 8:00, 327-6666.

--Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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