In Features, Issues

THE SUPER 8

1. Black People Hate Me and They Hate My Glasses (directed by Salamo Levin): Found on ifilm.com, (and inexplicably absent from Sundance and SXSW), this hilarious short film is a marvel of precision-timed chutzpah. Writer Andrew Gurland (director of last year’s Sundance sensation Frat House) stars as a white dude with an Afro – "a people person," he cheerfully says – whose glasses initiate a series of racially charged encounters. Blending Woody Allen-ish New York humor with conceptualist flair, Levin and Gurland create huge laughs through a skillfully edited multilayered narrative.

2. Wrapster (www.notocvarian.tripod.com): The beginning of something very revolutionary. Turn your PC into a film distributor with this free downloadable software. Applying the Napster concept, by which MP3s are indexed and traded over a network comprised of its member’s computers, to files of any kind, Wrapster threatens to get rid of distributors (and somewhat more troublingly, enforceable copyright laws) once and for all.

3. The Apex AD-600A (Circuit City, approx. $170): Need a DVD player? Try this cheap Chinese import. Warning: the menu page that allows you to disable copy protection and region coding is for professional developer use only! (More info can be found on the Apex AD-600A Information Pages, http://64.45.6.252 /apex/index.html).

4. Iron Chef (Food Channel): "Iron Chef" kicks the cooking show up a notch. Ostensibly a cooking contest, this Japanese import makes a complete stew of television programming, mixing gothic romance (the host, Kaga Takeshi, a reclusive millionaire, pledges himself and his Iron Chef assistants to cuisine’s holy crusade), professional sports (with commentators scrutinizing in hushed tones every gesture of the competitors, going so far as to ask the floor for video close-ups) and comic-book action, with gaudy Liberace fashions and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"—sound and lighting. Bam! Check your local TV listings or www.foodtv.com.

5. Vladistav Delay, Entain (Mille Plateaux) and Multila (Chain Reaction): Eerie, suspended landscapes charged with moral uncertainty and a vague spiritual presence – we used to escape to the films of Bergman and Tarkovsky for these sorts of metaphysical thrills. But with the art-houses gone, we must now get our kicks elsewhere, like in the work of this 24-year-old Finnish electronic composer. Updating Brian Eno’s Music for Films aesthetic by a couple thousand years, Delay clicks, distorts, scratches and oscillates the debris of our digital culture into something scary, soothing and profound.

6. Rapture.Anyone who has crossed the threshold of a contemporary arts gallery lately knows that video is the artist’s medium du jour. A case in point is the work of Shirin Neshat, whose installation Rapture won a Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Biennale. Shot in Morocco in gorgeous B&W, Rapture unfolds on two screens installed at opposite ends of a darkened room – making it impossible to see both screens at once. On one screen men gather and march through an open-air fortress while, on the other, veiled women mill about, their chadors blowing in the wind. There is a stand-off as the two groups face each other (with the viewer caught in the middle), and the women raise their hands to reveal Farsi calligraphy painted on their palms. Eventually the men make their way to the parapets of the fortress, the women make their way to the beach, and several women board an old boat and head out to sea as the men look on and wave goodbye.

Exquisite and mysterious, the 11-minute Rapture warrants repeated viewing.

7. All is Full of Love (Bjork/Chris Cunningham, Elecktra Entertainment DVD). The death of Stanley Kubrick – and the passing of his long-planned A.I. project to pal Steven Spielberg – is all the more regretful after watching this latest clip by music-video genius Chris Cunningham, who had been developing A.I. with Kubrick. This collaboration with Icelandic diva Bjork, soon to be seen starring in Lars von Triers’s Cannes entry Dancer in the Dark, is a beautifully sensuous ode to robot romance, with two mechanical Bjorks locked in futurist embrace while being poked, prodded and scanned by an array of invasive machines. Here’s hoping that producer Peter Hoffman can get Cunningham’s screen version of William Gibson’s Neuromancer off the ground.

8. French Film Soundtracks: Beau Travail, Claire Denis’s sensual variation on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd may have the sexiest soundtrack of the year: a masculine tango of brooding Benjamin Britten opera and lip-smacking North African disco. Muscles undulate, military cops mingle with club-sweaty civilians, and Denis Lavant spazz-dances himself into oblivion, with a little Neil Young fuzzery tossed in for added pleasure.

What Bertholt Brecht used to call the A-effect – A for alienation – may be the genius of Leos Carax’s Pola X, if not the crux of its critical rejection at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. With veteran bizarro-crooner Scott Walker (the ketamine Lee Hazelwood) recording the soundtrack (Barclay import), where’s the surprise? While bombs burst and an industrial orchestra reiterates the 100-guitar burr of vintage Glen Branca, Walker’s terrifying baritone swoops, swells, and warbles the dead right out of their graves.

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