This second program in the MCA’s “Made in Chicago: Independent Films” series (the last four programs of which will also be screened this weekend) consists of 11 short “lyrical” films. The lyrical tradition in independent filmmaking can be dated to the 1950s, to the work of Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baillie, and others who pioneered the use of the first-person camera to express the filmmaker’s subjective visions. But most of the films on this program have a more ambivalent take on the idea of the personal. Lawrence Janiak’s Adam’s Film (1964) includes black-and-white home-movie footage with a pattern of red scratches superimposed on it, resulting in an enigmatic combination of personal family images and dynamic shapes. Robert Stiegler’s charming Licht Spiel Nur 1 (1962), which hasn’t been screened in years, is notable for the startling variety of abstract patterns the filmmaker manages to get into its four-minute running time. Sharon Sandusky’s C’mon Babe (Danke Schoen) (1988) consists largely of appropriated documentary footage about lemmings and repeats a popular song endlessly on the sound track; Sandusky also repeats parts of the nature footage, so that instead of progressing forward in our knowledge, as educational films want us to do, we’re trapped by the repetition until the idea of lemming “suicide” seems to mock the song’s romanticism. Tatsu Aoki’s Rapturous (1984) takes footage shot in an underground garage in an improvisational, “lyrical” manner and superimposes its own mirror image, creating a symmetry that qualifies the lyricism by reminding us of film’s mechanical aspects. The result hovers between the meditative and the hypnotic. Also on the program are Deutschland Spiegel (1980) by Sharon Couzin, Untitled #1 (1982) by Adele Friedman, Cycles (1995) by Ariana Gerstein, Hand and Body Transformations (1976) by Byron Grush, Scratchman (1980) by Heather McAdams, Northern Light (1977) by Barbara Scharres, and Ellen of the Rope (1978) by Jean Sousa. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, Friday, January 17, 8:00, 312-397-4010. — Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Rapturous film still.