Chicago Underground Film Festival

The fifth annual Chicago Underground Film Festival continues Friday through Sunday, August 14 through 16, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets for all programs are $6, except for the screening Sunday at 12:30, which is free. A $50 pass will admit you to all festival screenings and events; a $25 pass will admit you to five regular programs. For more information call 773-866-8660.


It Came From Washington D.C.!

Filmmaker Jeff Krulik directed the cult film Heavy Metal Parking Lot, in which he interviews rock fans in a parking lot before a show; this program of shorts includes recently recovered footage from that project as well as Krulik and John Heyn’s Neil Diamond Parking Lot. Heyne and Seth Morris document a mid-80s “yippie smoke-in” in We Need a Staple Gun. The Langley Punks cite the Three Stooges and Hal Roach as inspiration for their 16-millimeter short Hyattsville Holiday. On the same program, The Funny Monkey by Mark Manlove and That Grip by Greg Grieg and Nancy Swenson. (5:30)

Cotton Candy

A program of films about sex and romance. The 47-minute Cotton Candy (1996) portrays a current social phenomenon in Japan–schoolgirls who have relationships with older men for money. Young Naomi sees media images that sexualize women, her school friends are already involved with men, and soon she’s alone with a businessman who presents her with gifts. Unfortunately director Roshell Bissett presents all this in bland and lifeless images, relying on the plot to carry the meaning. R. Arnold’s short The Morphology of Desire is much more clever in presenting gender roles: he morphs together the covers of romance novels to show how the characters’ various cliched poses announce similar emotional states. Frances Lea’s cloying and trite Oh Julie! uses technically slick clay animation to create a couple who try to copulate using prosthetic attachments. On the same program, Jaded by Robert C. Banks Jr. and Sleeping Beauties by Jamie Babbit. (FC) (6:00)

Battle Sounds

John Carluccio directed this hour-long video documentary about dance music and DJ culture, tracing its development as an art form from the Bronx to the global music scene. On the same program: Les LeVeque and Diane Nerwen’s Dissing D.A.R.E.: Education as Spectacle, a six-minute video attacking antidrug education, and Eric Henry’s Wood Technology and the Design of Structures, an experimental video about a parallel universe where people eat wood. (7:15)

Surrender Dorothy

Kevin DiNovas directed this 16-millimeter feature, which won the grand prize at the New York Underground Film Festival. It’s described as “an intensely disturbing psychosexual drama” about a busboy and a heroin dealer who develop a master-slave relationship. (7:45)

3 Minute Rockstars

Canadians Jane Farrow and Allyson Mitchell asked novice filmmakers to each shoot a roll of Super-8 film, edited in camera, to demonstrate his or her own stardom. The concept is intriguing, and the first few segments are lively enough, but this hour-long video compilation includes such tired conceits as dolls copulating and people taking drugs to the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and most of the films are depressingly similar with their jerky jump cuts and incoherent clowning. These beginners have no idea how to handle a camera, and successful in-camera editing also takes some experience. On the same program: Marco Moscato’s Zined, a video documentary about fanzines. Some of the interviews with publishers are amusing–I hadn’t known of a zine about garbage collecting–but a half hour spent browsing the magazine rack in an alternative bookstore would reveal more than this blandly shot essay. (FC) (9:00)

The Decline of Western Civilization Part III

Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Wayne’s World) calls the population defined by this ethnographic study “street punks.” They’re mostly teens who, estranged from their parents, crash in abandoned buildings and spend much of each day drinking and asking strangers for money. They also share tastes in fashion and music–some of which is presented in subtitled performances and discussed in interviews with band members. Spheeris, who asks questions offscreen, evidently sympathizes with her subjects, though this doesn’t stop her from pointing out their hypocrisy. One scene takes place in the apartment of a young man confined to a wheelchair; the many people partying there express their compassion for him, but opportunism is a big part of their motive for hanging around. Spheeris seems to suggest that her subjects’ lifestyle is a form of activism but that they need nurturing anyway–a contradiction many of them acknowledge and embrace. (LA) (9:30)

Le Petomane, Fin-de-siecle Fartiste

An hour-long video documentary about Joseph Pujol, who entertained Paris audiences with his “musical anus”; Igor Vamos directed. On the same program, two short videos: Animal Charm’s Ashley and Michael Cassidy’s The Phone Call. (10:45)


Ian Kerkhoff, a South African expatriate, used state-of-the-art digital filmmaking techniques to create this 35-millimeter feature about a girl who gets involved with an ecstasy dealer amid Amsterdam’s techno rave parties. (11:00)


Six for the Road

Half a dozen shorts: Tommy Burg’s Super-8 The Final Product and, on video, Jeffrey Williams’s Taxi, Bob Sabiston and Tommy Pallotta’s animated Roadhead, Jake Austen’s Southside Signs, Willie Laszlo’s Boogie Man, and Tom Palazzolo’s Down Clark Street. (12:30)

Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein

The only thing Andy Warhol had to do with Paul Morrissey’s campy 3-D gorefest (1974), also known as Flesh for Frankenstein, was give his name to the title and possibly pick up a check or two. Shot in Italy with Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Monique Van Vooren, and lots of blood. (JR) (1:00)

Battle Sounds

See listing for Friday, August 14. (2:00)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

Directed by record producer Lou Adler, this 1981 feature has vague satiric intentions: a no-talent Pennsylvania teenager (she seems to be living in the same rusted-out industrial town that served in Reckless and All the Right Moves) becomes a rock star on the basis of a two-tone hairdo, a surly attitude, and a slogan–“I don’t put out”–that is often quoted but never explained. She attracts legions of squealing, dress-alike fans, but the bubble bursts (improbably) when the leader of a rival group exposes her musical incompetence. Adler tacked on a happy ending in what seems to have been a desperate attempt to salvage the film’s commercial prospects, but he needn’t have bothered: this “expose” is too familiar and too sloppily filmed to shock anyone. Diane Lane stars, and there’s something magnetic about her even though what she’s doing can’t really be described as acting. With Fee Waybill, Ray Winstone, Laura Dern, and members of the Sex Pistols. (DK) (2:30)

Herd Mentality

A documentary video by Mark Hejnar about Pile of Cows, the Chicago noise band that performed from 1982 to 1993. On the same program, short videos by Hejnar, Usama Alshaibi, Huck Botko, Anie “Super-8” Stanley and Patty Chang, and Janene Higgins. (3:45)


An hour-long 16-millimeter documentary about Jeff Towne, a 40-year-old with Down’s syndrome; Daniel Klaus directed. On the same program, Elise MacAdam’s 16-millimeter short A Cure for Serpents and Matt McCormick’s experimental video Stain. (4:15)


Gray Miller’s 16-millimeter short, about two seniors who go on a cross-country killing spree, is described as Natural Born Killers meets Cocoon. On the same program, shorts by Jennifer Shiman, John Cannon, Bryan Boyce, Bill Ward, Robert Judd, and Laura Herman and Aaron Morse. (5:30)

Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein

See listing this date above. (6:00)

Rock & Roll Punk

This video by Chicagoan Jim Sikora is about as original as its title. A fictional rock band hailing from Elgin tries to become famous and struggles briefly to stay off weed while rehearsing. The band changes its name from “the Blowhards” to “the Out-Patients”; the members are interviewed by a guy who puts out a fanzine called Eat My Scene; a spacey promoter asks the group to consider dinner theater. The main problem with all this is that the real rock scene is a lot funnier–and already includes its own self-parody. The acting isn’t awful, but the film isn’t cohesive enough to suggest that the band really cares about its music or to make anyone else care. (FC) (7:15)


The filmmaker Camera Obscura directed this half-baked SF fantasy about a world where fruit is precious enough to be used for money and people live substitute lives by plugging virtual-reality chips into their goggles; the main character is a woman who seeks a chip substitute for her husband after he dies by autoerotic asphyxiation. Ms. Obscura’s jerky intercutting of reality and virtual reality gives a good sense of a life that’s lost any coherence, but her attitude toward the material seems uncertain. The black-and-white images of reality are often static tableaux, at once strangely seductive and uncinematic, while the color video of virtual reality is ugly, and it’s not clear that this difference means anything. On the same program, Sex and Violence by Bill Plympton. (FC) (7:45)

Independent’s Day

Marina Zenovitch directed this video documentary about the state of independent filmmaking; it includes interviews with filmmakers Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape) and Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men). On the same program, Steven Dovas’s animation Call Me Fishmeal and Four Films on Humility, a quartet of one-minute “microfilms” by Jay Bliznick, John Musial, Mick Napier, and Rob Rownd. (9:00)

Human Remains

Jay Rosenblatt directed this half-hour experimental film about 20th-century dictators. On the same program, Christopher Mann’s The Shiny Harp, based on Slavic folktales, and David Murphy’s Free Ride, a documentary about modern-day hoboes. (9:30)


Randy Cole directed this feature-length video about a technical writer and an office worker making “parallel descents into madness.” (10:45)

Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance

A feature-length 35-millimeter documentary about the HIV-positive performance artist Ron Athey, whose work “transforms SM rituals and leather and fetish culture into reconstructed religious spectacles.” Catherine Gun Saalfield directed. (11:00)



A free video screening of Raoul Vehill’s work in progress. (12:30)

Cinematic Sideshow

This program of short films contains SF, sex, and at least two wheelchairs. Patrick Harrison’s Freeworld is set in 2023 in the United States of North America, where a pair of secret police track a renegade robot. In Kitty Punch by Andrew J. Schlussel a vulnerable guy is left alone with his girlfriend’s cat. Nick Zedd describes his Why Do You Exist? as a “pulse-pounding pandemonium of palpitating pulchritude.” In David Blood’s Headless at the Fair a boy in a wheelchair goes on an outing with two naive girls. And in Dan Dinello, Paul Dinello, and Mitch Rouse’s Wheels of Fury a widow in a wheelchair crosses the line between revenge and romance. (1:00)

After School Acid Therapy

Short works by Matt Kovalakides, Tennessee Reid Norton, Rick Trembles, Todd Lincoln, Alvin Ecarma, Keith Schofield, Michael Kang, Eric Jewell, and Tony Nittoli. (2:00)


Mistress Carrie, one of the three professional dominatrices profiled in Sasha Waters and Iana Porter’s documentary, met her husband when she answered an ad for an artist’s model; in the movie he accuses her of taking advantage of her clients’ neuroses, but she points out that the service she provides them is in a sense an inversion of the work she did for him. Mistress Ava Taurel has a companion who appears to be more at home with her career. When he speaks about their relationship, his complaints are less hypocritical and more mundane: when she asks him to hand her a pair of stockings, he gives her the wrong ones, and after she criticizes him he complains that she wasn’t precise enough in the first place. Scenes like this, which are at least as intimate as the clients’ sessions the filmmakers were also invited to record, suggest that the participants trust Waters and Porter, who don’t treat the subject matter as if they have to defend it–an intelligent approach. (LA) On the same program, Dmitry Gelfand’s A Lick of Tasterish. (2:30)

It Came From Washington D.C.!

See listing for Friday, August 14. (3:45)

Circus Redickuless

Phillip Glau directed this 16-millimeter documentary about a bizarre traveling circus led by former rock guitarist Chicken John. (4:15)

In God We Trust, in Leather We Lust

Cyril Zajac’s 26-minute video documentary about the gay leather scene, centering on Chicago’s International Mr. Leather competition, is technically nothing special. But it is educational, distinguishing among different kinds of whips and showing the leather subculture as more accommodating to different ages and body types than the youth-worshiping gay mainstream. On the same program are four other gay and lesbian videos. Lucia Davis’s Kings of New York is a short documentary about male impersonators, who treat their role-playing with playful self-parody and even a touch of male baiting. Davis’s enigmatic, sometimes poetic A Real Live Girl pairs carnival footage with a sound track of men’s voices, many of which seem to threaten women. Todd Phillips’s I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus reminds us that some songs are far quirkier without imagery. Brian Winkowski’s Wonder Woman: Battle With the Basher is cinematically illiterate; Winkowski may think his crudely mismatched cuts are postmodern, but they seem merely inept. (FC) (5:30)

Women in Revolt

Three transvestites–Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling–in full-time drag play females of questionable intelligence who become attracted to the lib idea, go through some unbelievable moral calisthenics by “organizing,” incoherently backslide, fall apart as a group, and end up diversely in certain well-known attitudes taken by fallen Eve of the legendary garden. This product of the Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey filmmaking factory takes the solemnities of the movement and reminds the lib ladies that they too are camp. (DD) (6:00)


See listing for Saturday, August 15. (7:15)


Maura and Warren search for the perfect place to live in a U.S. filled with chaos. Anna Cimini wrote and directed this feature; music by Rachel’s and the Palace Brothers. On the same program, Duraid Munajim’s Tempus Fugit. (7:45)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Hellzapoppin’ photo by Jennifer Schultes.