This strong program of witty films and videos, all but one by Chicagoans, is part of the Museum of Contemporary Art's upcoming "First Fridays" social event. In Jerrys (1976), a portrait of a local deli, Tom Palazzolo's handheld camera and jagged editing capture the proprietor's raw energy. Ines Sommer's The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof (1990) humorously juxtaposes images of supermarket products with the voices of televangelists. Heather McAdams's frenetic The Space Cadets (1979) uses old found footage toward often hilarious ends: the sound track connects soldiers at war with "space cadets," and eventually the term's use for a person who isn't all there becomes the operative pun. The program's real finds are Lightfoot Fever (1996) and Ashley (1997), two superb short videos by the duo calling themselves Animal Charm. Selections from industrial films and TV footage become more demented than I'd have imagined possible, but not through the usual mockery; instead, Animal Charm takes each scene seriously at first. The images chosen have a certain vivacity and linger long enough to become almost seductive before turning sour. In Ashley, a montage of a sunlit baby riding in a car becomes almost poetic, but it leads to a sequence of a woman driving a van full of young children, which in turn leads to a longer scene of a woman and man in a suburban home. The antiseptic cleanliness of the imagery has a superficial appeal but begins to feel claustrophobic--or toxic--after prolonged exposure. On the same program: Gregg Biermann's Window of Appearances (1996) and Bruce Conner's A Movie (1958). Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, next Friday, January 2, showing continuously from 7:00 to 10:00, 312-397-4010. --Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still of Ashley.