Monstershow | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In interviews veteran Ohio independent filmmaker Richard Myers has quoted Fellini's reference to film as "a dream for the waking mind"--appropriate since Myers's latest work takes its cues from the logic of dreams. We see a small traveling show performing in various outdoor Ohio locales; some actors do episodes from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while another narrates in the aggressive monotone of a carnival barker. Myers intercuts clips from old movies, including versions of the same three stories, as well as footage from his own unfinished first effort--a "Frankenstein" begun when he was 12. All of these elements are deftly combined to interpenetrate rather than collide: the barker's voice often continues when the old movies begin so that he seems to be narrating them as well. The result is that present and past, the personal and the public, Hollywood and amateur theater all seem to meld. Besides seeing the traveling show's performances, we see its old van going from place to place and the stage being set up: painted flats roll down, obscuring the outdoor landscape, or roll up to reveal the scenery or another flat behind. The inclusion of these moments--as well as the rickety stage, nondescript landscape, and Myers's sensuous, grainy black-and-white cinematography--is the key to the film's tone and meaning: Myers casts his meditation on the tenuousness of all experience as a modest essay set in seemingly unimpressive midwestern locales, and rather than interrogating the relationship of life to theater, he prefers to slide effortlessly between the two. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Saturday, October 26, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

--Fred Camper

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