December 3-19
Euro Underground @ THE LAB
Short Films from
Poland + Ukraine + US + England
The Lab, in conjunction with curator Mark Siska, presents three weekends of screenings of subterranean Euro celluloid in three separate rooms. Tonight's selections in the main room include 'Framed'(Germany, 1999) by Mennan Yapo, a clever reality bender in which a troubled couple watch a movie about the isolation and torture of an apparent political prisoner. The film-within-the-film's character mirrors the claustrophobia and repressed anger implied in the couple's relationship. When the prisoner fights off his captors and escapes, his action resonates with the couple in the audience and a night at the cinema becomes cathartic and healing. Ivaylo Simidchiev's 'MUD' (Bulgaria, 1997) vividly recreates the grubby world of street urchins, one of whom stabs a man in the course of a robbery. The boy becomes guilt-ridden and sympathetic towards his wounded victim and a profound friendship develops between the two. 'Clothes For Moving' (1997) and 'Unglaublich Aber War' (1997) by Swiss filmmaker Karim Patwa, are topical ruminations mixing witty pop art visuals with found footage about man on a desperate run from technology and reality. The other two rooms will screen continuous loops, notably "Unpopular Culture" featuring subversive anti-corporate art establishment critiques. The other room will feature work by Chicago film and video artist curated by Ausgang. Experimental noise musician Joe Hammer of Solid Eye will perform live Friday night and performance artist and naked violinist Blue Girl will do the same on Saturday. (The Lab, 835 South Spring St., Downtown L.A.; Fri.-Sat., Dec. 3-4, 8 p.m., Sun. Dec. 5, 1 p.m. 213-689-4725)
----- Michael Simmons.

In this second installment of international film and video, curator Mark Siska presents eight selections of unusually high quality with a heavy emphasis on sociopolitical critique. The responsibility of any decent underground filmmaker is to scream (or, shall we say, screen) "FIRE!" in a crowded cinema. In the aftermath of anti-WTO unrest in Seattle, many of these works remind one that it's the artists who have been perennially crying out during our long winter of discontent. 'Nowo Film' (Poland, 1998) by Bogumie Godfrejow is a six-minute distillation of George Orwell's '1984'. The cold imagery of the human race beholden to industry and transfixed by authoritarian rulers on a TV monitor proves just how prescient Orwell actually was. Tomek Augustynek's 'MOC (Power)' (Poland, 1998) is a kinetic look at the circuitous travel of electricity from industrial source to human use. 'Mark Roth' (USA, 1997) by the Animal Charm collective edits together unrelated shots of corporate life, emphasizing the shallow banality of capitalism. Carl Wiedermann's 'Primer for Dental Extraction' (USA, 1999) is a visually striking (reminiscent of Fritz Lang) rumination on dentistry as a metaphor for psychological pain. Darkly comic, everyday indignities provide grist for a saxophonist's blues in Phil Mulloy's sparely animated 'The Sound of Music' (England, 1994). The other selections leaven the scathing politics with refreshing silliness, proving laughter to be yet another weapon against the ugly spirit of greed. (The Lab, 835 Spring St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., Dec. 10-11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec.12, 1 p.m.; series thru Dec. 19. 213-689-4725)
----- Michael Simmons

This third and final installment of international film and video features four black comedies whose style is as interesting as their substance. Curator Mark Siska chose thematically disparate pieces that are nonetheless connected by superbly recreating a variety of visual genres. The luxury of the non-commercial motion picture artist is the license to dwell in strange, atmospheric, artificial worlds that would be considered too downright weird for their mainstream counterparts (although that's changing somewhat with the likes of Tim Burton and others). 'Peletero (FURRIER)' (Argentina, 1997) by Sebastian Monaco has the look of an early-'60s black-and-white Vittorio De Sica flick, but the plot, which has to do with the murderous undertakings of a fur merchant, is more akin to a Herschell Gordon Lewis gorefest. The politics of couture are addressed from an animal rights point-of-view but presented with mischievous politically incorrect humor. Geoffrey Chadwick's 'The Great Coagulator'(U.S., 1999) is a dead-on recreation of early-talkies and vaudeville but also features realistic gore in a manner more appropriate for psychotronic trash . 'Honey Pot'(U.S., 1998) by Todd Lincoln parodies 1950s educational films complete with cheesy lounge music and a squeaky clean "little girl" narrator. The honey in question is followed from beekeeper to factory production to porno movie to the container's use as a bong by punk skateboarders. 'Deep Africa' (U.S., 1998) by Steve Hall and Cathee Wilkins (recently reviewed here) is a hilarious skin flick send-up starring blow-up dolls. The show also features continuous video loops, film projections, live music, popcorn and beverages. (The Lab, 835 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., Dec. 17-18, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 19, 1 p.m. 213-689-4725) ------- Michael Simmons