Reel Life: a look at not looking | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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Reel Life: a look at not looking


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When Ya-shan Kua arrived from Taiwan last year, she was warned not to look at anyone when riding the el. More intrigued than intimidated by this local tactic of defensive isolation, Kua made From To, a five-minute, 16-millimeter black-and-white reverie on transit. She cast an estranged everyman and filmed him in solo journeys on the CTA. Her spare, almost spooky narration interlaced with abstract piano phrases states: "He's everywhere . . . he's everywhere . . . he's everywhere. . . . I've never seen him look at people."

Although the el is as much a Chicago cliche as Capone, its kinetic architecture continues to inspire poets, photographers, and filmmakers. When Kua shot From To she was unversed in photographer Harry Callahan's formal studies of Loop shadow and steel, yet her imagery rediscovers parallel graphic gems. Her elusive rider adds a dose of Nelson Algren-style existential sentimentality. Kua's work is a remarkably deft exercise in mixing prose, piano, and motion on film.

From To will be shown at Chicago Filmmakers's fourth annual Chicago Student Film and Video Festival, held Sunday. Two separate programs are scheduled for 6 and 8 PM (From To is in the late show). Running times range from 1 to 35 minutes. It's at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $5. Call 384-5533.

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