Small Guage Shotgun | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Small Guage Shotgun

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With former avant-gardists making rock videos or PBS specials, getting tenure or government grants, independent cinema has become something of an institution. It is not surprising that an alternative alternative cinema has emerged, created mostly by Super-8 filmmakers working with little money or recognition. Few can afford to print their films so they show the originals, complete with splices. Most never went to film school; many didn't like it and never finished. Their work generally lacks polish but it can be full of energy, with a personal honesty that seems rare in our culture. A good sampling of this work, on view this weekend, includes an abstract painted film, the wildly colorful Scratch Test by Ann Louise Host; a powerful collage film, Guy Roadruck's Sex Beat; and several offbeat narratives, including Jim Sikora's One Time She Played the B-Side. In the latter film, a woman is invited home by a man she meets in a bar; we watch her fantasy about the events of the ensuing days with him--insults, tender lovemaking, and then violent arguments. The hand-held camera gives the action immediacy, and the off-center quality of the acting and dialogue has an authenticity that, along with the characters' unsettling predictability, likely comes from powerfully lived personal experience. In Sex Beat, which begins with a shot of satellite dishes, a male protagonist drifts through a postmodern sea of video images, pornography, and a dense collage of sounds. In one of several climaxes, the protagonist's ineffectual cavorting with an inflatable mannequin is contrasted with a forceful male-hero icon of an earlier generation--we hear the voice of John Wayne from Red River and see his image from The Quiet Man. The film's nutty rapid cutting and outrageous juxtapositions are controlled well enough to result in a work that powerfully evokes its character's impotence in the face of a flood of sounds and images. Also being shown are films by Danny Plotnick, Joe Winston, Raoul Vehill, Dave Riley, and Phillip Guilbeau. (Music Box, Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14, midnight)

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