| Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man



Filmmaker Ron Rice completed only three films before he died in poverty in Mexico in 1964, among them the wonderfully absurdist Senseless and the visually lush orgy-dream Chumlum. He also left a partly edited version of The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man, which has recently been completed with the assistance of actor Taylor Mead, using both additional footage Rice had shot for the film and Mead's recollections of Rice's intentions. The only sound is recorded music, and the film has the look of a rough cut, especially when compared with Rice's precisely edited earlier works, but The Queen of Sheba is one of the few films ever to authentically capture the beat spirit. A diminutive, playfully androgynous Mead, a larger, slower moving, often nude Winifred Bryan, and other characters, one played by filmmaker Jack Smith, cavort in seedy apartments and diverse New York locales. In a key repeated motif, characters find new ways to approach ordinary objects; Jack Smith, attempting to eat some crackers, wildly licks the box. There are no actual sex acts, but many exaggerated gestures and movements treat body parts as toys: the film's sexuality comes from a time before "gay," "bi," and "straight" became the separated categories they're typically portrayed as now. Childlike play is evoked throughout: at the Museum of Modern Art, Mead imitates the poses in famous artworks, rapidly and hilariously changing positions when he gets to a famous cubist painting. The idea seems to be to oppose all conventional ways of behaving and seeing to try to develop a more involved, and more imaginative, relationship to the world. Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday, January 28, 8:00, 384-5533.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →