Resfest Digital Film Festival

This touring program of international digital films runs Thursday through Saturday, October 5 through 7, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Tickets are $8, $6 for MCA members; a $40 pass admits you to all screenings. For more information call 312-397-4010.


Wave Twisters

Syd Garon and Eric Henry created this 45-minute animation based on DJ Q-Bert’s 1998 album Wave Twisters: Episode 7 Million, Sonic Wars With the Protons. (8:00)


Short films, program one

These 23 experimental shorts, most of them from the U.S. and Europe, giddily push the digital envelope but don’t always meet the challenge of succinct storytelling. They range from the tedious (a montage of non sequitur slogans in Stefan Nadelman’s Latin Alive, a rave filled with gaunt animated figures in Gene Nazarov’s Dualitat) to the inspired (distorted faces and gestures communicating the agony of an imprisoned woman in Sebastian Castillo and Andrew Busti’s Deleriouspink), from the familiar (an endless highway through a barren desert in Max Kisman’s 11:11) to the whimsical (a man who’s replaced his lost head with a balloon in Wojtek Wawszczyk’s Headless). The most impressive from a technical standpoint are Harry Arling and Bastiaan Hooimeijer’s The Joust, a clay animation of a futuristic duel that recalls Mad Max; Charlie Ramos’s Metamorphosis, an expressionistic and, well, Kafkaesque animation in which the protagonist-turned-cockroach faces his stunned family; Tim Hope’s Jubilee Line, whose live figures are superimposed over grids of trains and skeletal buildings; and Elyse Couvillion’s Sweet, a vignette about a man and a woman in a condo complex who daydream about each other, shot by ace cameraman Allen Daviau. I particularly enjoyed Zach Schlappi’s Pasta for War, a mock March of Time newsreel that shows rigatoni and mostaccioli in military formation; Tim MacMillan’s Ferment, a stunning stop-motion panorama of the city of Bath; Jose Javier Martinez’s Luz, a poignant tale of a girl who finds her way back home by stepping into a movie; and Michael Overbeck’s macabre Tongues and Taxis, involving a cranky man, his severed tongue, and a ninja cat. On the same program, shorts by Thomas Trail, Jess Rene Gertsen, Michael Goedecke, Eric Saks, Francois Vogel, J.F. Bourrel, J. Calvet, Brian Garnell, Bryan Boyce, and Koji Yamamoto. 86 min. (TS) (8:00)

Cinema Electronica

These 21 electronic-music videos rarely show the performers, but some of them might as well be in rotation at MTV, judging from the way they exploit striking images for disjointed shock effects or otherwise mirror the worst elements of modern culture. In Underworld’s Cowgirl, for example, filmmaker Tomato uses somewhat mechanical editing to suggest a loss of self as crowds pulse to the beat. At the other extreme, Designers Republic questions the mindlessness of mass culture in Funkstörung’s Grammy Winners, a poetic and thought-provoking mix of text, schematic street scenes, and fragments of photographed figures. A similar suggestiveness distinguishes Russ Murphy and Alec Williamson’s video for Kurtis Mantronik’s Push Yer Hands Up, whose memorable images include a photographed woman inhabiting the abstracted outline of an elevator, and Siraj Jhaveri’s video for Laurent Garnier’s The Man With the Red Face, which intersperses street scenes with kitschy moments from Bollywood films. In Geoffrey de Crecy’s cute animation Les Miserables the denizens of a hamburger joint look rather like burgers themselves, and the workers moving in sync to the bouncy music suggest an updated version of Chaplin’s Modern Times. Less admirable is Julian House and Julian Gibbs’s video for Primal Scream’s Kill All Hippies: with its faceless warriors, fighter planes, and screaming colors, the video seems to glory in its apocalyptic war to exterminate human difference, making it one of several pieces on the program to flirt with fascism. 80 min. (FC) (10:30)


Short films, program two

These 19 shorts, designed for the Internet using programs like Macromedia Flash, are a pretty sorry lot: some are episodes from ongoing series, some are previews for longer pieces, but few offer any more psychological depth than a sitcom or improve much on the computer-animated TV cartoons of the mid-70s. More often than not the artists offer pale imitations of adult comic books or classic Hollywood cartoons, while the trite narratives seem more like calculations for commercial success than stories anyone needed to tell. The hero of John Ridley’s Undercover Brother is a meek office worker whose secret identity allows him to labor on behalf of African-Americans, and the musicians in Crispin Wood’s Rock School: Driving to the Out-of-Town Gig Again spend their time on the road debating whether they’d rather cut off one of their pinkies or go without sex. The medium shows promise, at least technically: the eyes of the aliens in Phill Simon’s L’il Green Men: The Arms Broker carry subtle reflections, and in Dave Poole’s modestly successful The Missing Dentures the criminal being interrogated by police has a genuine depth to his face and skin. But the only short that stands on its own, Xeth Feinberg’s Bulbo in a Brief History of the 20th Century, charms by virtue of its line-drawn title character, who waltzes through the Depression and the cold war with the same stone-faced expression. On the same program, shorts by Robert Valley, Roger Dondis, Nick Nicholas, Justin Willow, Chris Lindland, Marina Zurkow, Jamie Levy, Janet Galore, Frank Kozik, Roque Ballesteros, Peter Gilstrap, Mark Brook, Andy Murdock, Chris Lanier, Andres Moreta, Jean-Paul Leonard, and Marcus Brooks. 87 min. (FC) (3:00)

Short films, program one

See listing for Friday, October 6. (5:00)

Sam the Man

A slick novelist (Fisher Stevens), facing midlife crisis and an acute case of writer’s block, cheats repeatedly on his fiancee (Annabella Sciorra), hoping the affairs will shake him out of his complacency and help him finish his long-awaited second novel. The film features enjoyable performances from a solid supporting cast (including Luis Guzman, Maria Bello, and Ron Rifkin), and director Gary Winick wrings some humor out of the novelist’s excuses to his friends, his editor, and himself, but ultimately the film is as smug and superficial as its main character. Supposedly the advent of digital film will permit more small, personal movies, but if Sam the Man is any indication, they may be a lot more interesting to their makers than they are to the audience. 87 min. (Reece Pendleton) (8:00)

Short films, program three

A disappointing package of five “long shorts,” all of them short on storytelling but long on technical derring-do. In the superior Figures of Speech, Bob Sabiston and Tommy Pallotta film verbal anecdotes from a variety of people and mischievously morph their images, turning them into cubist art or Garry Trudeau cartoons. The transformations often comment on their stories, as if the filmmakers were snidely editorializing, an amusing effect that becomes monotonous when the talk proves less revealing than the animation. Gareth Smith and Michael Horowitz’s live-action short This Guy Is Falling relies on Adobe-created special effects to tell the sophomoric story of a man saving his girlfriend from an airplane above Los Angeles after gravity is temporarily suspended; the teeming cityscape recalls the visuals of Babe: Pig in the City, but the apocalyptic finale is ludicrous. In Joan Raspo’s wry, narcissistic Avenue Amy a Monica Lewinsky look-alike discards her indie-rock boyfriend and plunges into dating hell, the actors stenciled over with cartoons, possibly to protect their reputations. Rolf Gibbs shot the silent five-minute short G as a requirement for a class at New York University; the camera, stationed in an airplane at 30,000 feet, surveys a mountain range below, then suddenly drops and falls to the ground. Aaron Rhodes’s companion piece Falling shows Gibbs and his team preparing to shoot G; the cinematic shoptalk is informative but might have been edited more judiciously. 77 min. (TS) (10:00)