Passing Shadows | Chicago Reader

Passing Shadows

These eight avant-garde films share no common theme, but the best three work by throwing the viewer off balance. Stan Brakhage's Commingled Containers is full of beautiful imagery, like light reflected on water, but the brevity of each shot and the unpredictable editing prevents it from becoming static or merely pretty. In Last Lost, Eve Heller has reedited a 1930s movie about a chimp at Coney Island to perverse and humorous ends, making the primate the only intelligent being in the film: she cuts from its face to a crowd of bathers mindlessly rising and falling with the waves, and in many other shots the chimp is the most active presence, as when it pulls off a man's false beard. Whiplash is Warren Sonbert's moving and elegiac final film (he died of AIDS in 1995, and filmmaker Jeff Scher completed it according to his instructions). Vertiginous images of a skater and a bullfighter may reflect Sonbert's own loss of balance from a brain infection, but the film is also about performance, about life itself as theater. The same players reappear, as if Sonbert wants to prolong the show, yet often they're viewed from a mournful distance that's unusual for him, as if they're receding from view. On the same program: Zack Stiglicz's lush, hand-painted Blink; Amie Siegel's Inclusum Labor Illustrat, which uses poetic close-ups and focus changes to show medical imagery; Paul Simons's Sketches of the Past; and Kerry Laitala's Retrospectroscope and Secure the Shadow.


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