Resfest Digital Film Festival

This touring program of international digital films runs Friday through Sunday, September 17 through 19, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Tickets are $8, $6 for MCA members; a $35 pass admits you to all screenings. For more information call 312-397-4010.


Short films, program one

See Critic’s Choice. (8:00)


Three Days

A feature-length documentary on the reunion tour of rock band Jane’s Addiction, directed by Kevon Ford and Carter Smith. (8:00)

Cinema Electronica

Included in this program of 14 music videos from the last couple of years are three by Chris Cunningham, the genre’s current whiz kid. His growing stylistic confidence and command of digital technology–and fetish for androids–can be charted from his first video, Second Bad Vibel (1996), to his latest, All Is Full of Love, which ingeniously matches Bjork in a duet with herself with a vignette about a female robot who creates a clone, then embraces and kisses it. Afrika Shox (1997), a promo for the song by hip-hop band Leftfield, shows Cunningham’s talent for adding context to lyrics–he’s turned the music into a gruesome, bleak account of a black man gradually falling apart, mentally and physically, as he winds through the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan. The rest of the videos aren’t on quite the same level, though Jeremy Hollister’s Music for 18 Musicians, set to a Steve Reich remix by DJ Coldcut, is hypnotic, and Teardrop, Walter Stern’s clip for Massive Attack, has the wailing ballad sung by a fetus. And Acne International’s video for Whale’s “Four Big Speakers” digitally manipulates still photos of the band members in a Dragnet parody. (TS) (10:00)


The Humiliated

Danish director Lars von Trier (The Kingdom, Breaking the Waves) is the star of this 1998 feature documentary by Jesper Jargil about the making of The Idiots, von Trier’s first work to adhere to the “Dogma 95” ideas espoused by him and a band of other European filmmakers. Jargil, also following the Dogma 95 rules, used a digicam and natural light to record behind-the-scene encounters and chats with the film’s actors and crew. He shows von Trier explaining the conceit of The Idiots–in which actors pose as inmates from an insane asylum–while pushing his cast to show raw emotions. Jargil elicits candid comments from those around the director, and the impression of von Trier that emerges is of a head of a commune longing for the groovy 60s, exhorting his followers to shed their clothes and psychological masks for the sake of his art. But Jargil is too awestruck to deflate the director’s hubris, and we come away amused by von Trier’s ego and still wondering what makes him tick. On the same program, Sophie Fiennes’s Lars From 1-10. (TS) (2:00)

Short films, program two

Each of these five recent shorts, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes in length, points to a different direction for digital video. The most conventional and amusing is Stephen Dooher’s Searching for Carrie Fisher, in which the smugly persistent young director uses a digicam to track down the object of a childhood crush, finally cornering her outside a hair salon. Sophie Fiennes’s Lars From 1-10 is a talking-head video whose subject, Danish director Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves), self-importantly describes his “Dogma 95” manifesto. Patrick Demers’s Discharge, in which a couple confront a dangerous man from their past, is viewed by some as a parody of the French New Wave, but despite some vertiginous and suspenseful effects, it’s ultimately pointless. Plug, by Meher Gourjian, mixes sophisticated computer graphics and real actors for an ironic parable about a future where people prefer projected dreams to reality; a drag race through miles-tall skyscraper canyons brings to mind The Fifth Element, and the startling transition from fantasy to reality borrows from What Dreams May Come. James Sommerville’s visual tone poem Negative Forces, Witchcraft and Idolatry, with its scratchy, fractured images and jerky motion, owes a debt to Seven, but this mosaic is so expertly assembled that it evokes in a fresh, eerie way the paranoia and alienation experienced by New York’s subway riders. (TS) (4:00)

Better Living Through Circuitry

Jon Reiss, who’s created music videos for Nine Inch Nails, assembled this video guide to the techno/rave scene. Interviews with rave culturati from both sides of the Atlantic–DJ Spooky, Roni Size, Moby, Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür, and the bands Electric Skychurch and Crystal Method–stress techno’s delirious tribalism, which is illustrated by scenes of revelers gyrating in industrial warehouses and in the California desert. Reiss also gives ample screen time to fans and nonperforming scenesters, from rabid promoters to people who design flyers, and neither the infomercial moments (gee whiz, even the Dalai Lama endorses the “spirituality” of rave) nor the extended antidrug message can cheapen their conspiratorial passion. True to the spirit of techno, the whole thing was filmed on a Sony digicam, cheaply edited on a Power Mac, then blown up to 35-millimeter; it’s as slick as anything you might find on the Discovery Channel, and the snippets of 3-D computer animation are too cool for words. (TS) (7:00)