Dark Shadows: Recent Avant-Garde Film

In various ways, all three of these films explore our viewing experience, finding in the distance between an object and its image a suggestion of death. Peggy Ahwesh has eroticized nude corpses in some recent work; Nocturne (1998), a grotesque spoof of horror films, begins with a woman trying to bury her dead lover. Ahwesh cuts to scenes of the couple alive, intertwining past and present, reality and fantasy; she also mixes full-frame footage with smaller, fuzzier frames transferred from Pixelvision, the images seeming to deteriorate like the lover’s corpse. Mark LaPore’s austere The Five Bad Elements (1997) addresses the connection between image making and control: a small lens within the frame isolates objects for inspection, and the final image, a long take of a nude boy that makes him look almost like a medical specimen, is accompanied by a voice-over about military life, which suggests another kind of regimentation. Martin Arnold’s amusing but cloying Alone: Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) manipulates footage from old Andy Hardy movies, slowing down images and presenting them in forward and reverse, rocking back and forth across single moments to let the viewer savor each tiny gesture. Arnold calls attention to an inherent quality of all films: their imagery offers a trace, in artificial time, of something in the past. Presented by Chicago Filmmakers. Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, Friday, January 29, 8:00, 773-384-5533 or 312-458-0763. –Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Nocturne film still.