Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

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Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival

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In addition to opening night on June 14, the 19th annual, expanded edition of the festival includes two programs of French films (see capsules on The Virgin's Bed and Vite/Deux Fois), two one-person shows, and six programs of shorts. Most of the work is excellent, but what's distinctive is the variety--even the weak films are innovative. Programs run through Sunday, June 17; all the ones listed here are at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $8, $7 for students, $4 for CF members. For more information call 773-293-1447 or check chicagofilmmakers.org.

With its absurdist intertitles and bright abstractions, Jessie Stead's charming, playful Foggy Mountains Breakdown More Than Non-Foggy Mountains (2006, 59 min.) lives up to its weird name. Nine different renditions of a bluegrass tune are in keeping with the film's postmodern spirit, arguing against fixed forms and ideas. Stead will attend. a Fri 6/15, 11 PM. F

The longest piece in "Group Program 1: Tonal Variations" (91 min.), Luther Price's Kittens Grow Up, has an emotional edge. It intercuts cute footage of a cat mothering her kittens with scenes from a family drama featuring an abusive dad. In Black and White Trypps Number Three Ben Russell offers intense, fragmentary views of dancers, illuminated by a single spotlight, at a rock performance. Joe Gilmore and Paul Emery's Clut is an impressive essay on three-dimensional abstraction, while Kyle Canterbury continues his poetic investigations of the nature of video in four 2006 pieces. a Sat 6/16, 5:30 PM.

The best piece in "Group Program 2: More Than Meets the Eye" (79 min.) is John Smith's Pyramids/Skunk (Hotel Diaries 5). Smith's visual and voice-over comments on the minute details of two hotel rooms have a wry self-indulgence that sets up his observations on the real-world horrors in Palestine. In Happy Again (2006) Gregg Biermann superimposes Gene Kelly on Kelly in footage from Singin' in the Rain to create a sensuous texture that captures some of the musical's spirit. a Sat 6/16, 8 PM.

"Group Program 3: 'Curiouser and Curiouser!'" (89 min.) includes Corinna Schnitt's curious Once Upon a Time (2005): circular pans of a living room reveal more and more animals. Kittens are no surprise, but by the time goats and pigs are eating the plants she's made a wonderful point about living creatures versus bourgeois decorating. Guy Ben-Ner's Truffaut remake--Wild Boy (2004), using his own son--is inexcusably self-indulgent and cloyingly cute. a Sat 6/16, 9:45 PM.

"Group Program 4: The Political Edge" (78 min.) includes Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville's densely allusive Freedom and Homeland (2002), which suggests Godard's own history. In Ken Jacobs's superb Capitalism: Child Labor (2006), rapid cuts between views of a huge turn-of-the-century factory magnify this massively oppressive space. a Sun 6/17, 1 PM.

The films in "The Intimate Distance--A Tribute to Mark LaPore (1952-2005)" (80 min.) were not available for preview, but LaPore's quiet observational cinema, tinged by melancholy, is well worth a look. Presented by Mark McElhatten. a Sun 6/17, 3 PM.

The longest piece in "Group Program 5: Luminescence" (80 min.) is Marya Alford's Bouvier and Prusakova (2005), in which a Russian woman talks about meeting her American suitor in Minsk, marrying, and emigrating to the United States. Only at the end do we learn that "Lee" is JFK's assassin, a shock that recalls other hopeful stories gone bad. Robert Todd's Qualities of Stone and Diane Kitchen's Ecstatic Vessels are both gentle, poetic observations of small details, the texture of a surface or the shape and color of a leaf. a Sun 6/17, 6:30 PM.

"Group Program 6: Dreaming Awake" (75 min.) includes abstractions like Thorsten Fleisch's Energie!, in which jagged shapes crackle with energy--unfortunately smoothed over by the drone soundtrack. In Robert Daniel Flowers's Stereoscopic Experiment for Audience No. 2 repeated geometrical shapes produce labyrinthine effects suggesting a hall of mirrors. Rae Staseson's When Owls Dream shows a bird flying through superimposed Canadian landscapes, which gives the land a lightness and spirituality. a Sun 6/17, 8:30 PM. --Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Foggy Mountains Breakdown More Than Non-Foggy Mountains.

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