Fables of the Puppet Reconstruction
The puppet film has been (dis)regarded by most cinema histories as a freak or a technological flash in the pan -- like the animatronics in big-budget films -- but its development parallels live-action and animated cinema. Like dolls, puppets embody the spirit of innocent, anarchic childhood, while at the same time their blank expressions and manipulable parts suggest the deadened condition of humans at the end of the 20th century -- a rich and unpredictable mixture.
"The Fabled Puppet of Cinema" features three programs of the finest puppet cinema of the 1990s, from a more extensive festival presented by PFA Curator Kathy Geritz at the Guggenheim last fall. With the pieces an average of eight minutes long, the extended works, like Chris Sullivan's 45-minute (but never really finished) masterpiece Consuming Spirits, seem positively epic, impossible to summarize. See this with Janie Geiser's haunting, German expressionist/noirish Immer Zu; the grotesque, heartbroken Goat Song by Michael Sommers; Fae Yamaguchi's hilarious low-tech puppets, roughly held down by a gloved hand, struggling to escape interrogation (A Complex Situation); and others (Feb. 9). The following week's offerings (Feb. 16) include, among others, Laura Heit's mysterious, sorrowful Moat; Lewis Klahr's magnificent, Cold War revisionist interpretation of Superman gofer Jimmie Olsen's sex life (Pony Glass); Sadie Benning's life and times of a suburban teenager in The Judy Spots; and the droll yet intense Deadman's Cliff, with Fae Yamaguchi's hapless protagonist again threatened, this time with death by a toy shark in water churned by a hand mixer.
-- Frako Loden
"The Fabled Puppet of Cinema" screens Tuesday, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant, Berkeley. Admission is $6; call (510) 642-1124
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