The Girl Chewing Gum

The British experimental filmmaker comes to Chicago for three programs of his work, at Northwestern University Block Museum of Art (Wed 10/15), Gene Siskel Film Center (reviewed here), and University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts (Fri 10/17). Included in this career-spanning retrospective is his most famous work, The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), which plays on our expectations about the relationship between sound and image. On the soundtrack, over documentary footage of a busy London street, Smith calls out every occurrence just before it happens, as though directing the real world; the artifice is obvious, but you may find yourself suspending disbelief anyway. In some of the other shorts Smith considers our instinct to create narrative continuity between disparate images when they appear in sequence. The Black Tower (1987), an absurdist tale of a man haunted by the title structure, uses a handful of shots in different permutations to illustrate different passages, the images taking on new meaning each time.