Reel World

Unbrella Man; Pennies From Heaven; Spectres of the Spectrum

Umbrella ManWorking in every conceivable format, experimental filmmaker Scott Stark has produced an average of three pieces a year since 1980. That's remarkable consistency, especially given Stark's obsession with innovation. "Each of my films has its own language," the Bernal Heights resident explains. "You don't necessarily know what that language is when you start watching, so it might be confusing until you figure out what's going on and get into the rhythm."

In one of his new pieces, the ironically titled SLOW, Stark aggressively employs the old-fashioned wipe to slice and dice the frame. "It's a fine line between artistic control and randomness," says Stark, who's had two solo shows (a decade apart) at New York's Museum of Modern Art. "If you exert too much control, you're telling the audience what you want them to see. I like setting up situations where the world reveals something about itself. That process makes the viewer participate a little bit more." The friction between that desire to engage the audience and Stark's insistent eclecticism gives his films an unexpected tension.

The artist, who supports himself as a Web application developer, has landed another new film, Angel Beach, in next year's Whitney Biennial. The 27-minute piece is constructed of rapid cuts between snapshots of women in bikinis from 1969 to '71 that Stark found at a flea market. The speed of the editing produces a fluttering effect that suggests movement that isn't in the original stills. "I'm very much interested in creating things in your mind that aren't really there," he confides. It makes sense, then, that Stark came up with the rubric "Don't Even Think" for the S.F. Cinematheque's four-night retrospective of his work, commencing Thursday, Nov. 29, with a program of new films at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The blowout concludes at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the S.F. Art Institute with a multimedia performance extravaganza. For info, visit www.sfcinematheque.org.

Pennies From HeavenIn one of those vagaries of exhibition, the current one-week run (ending Thursday, Nov. 29) of the Iranian gem Djomeh at San Jose's Cinematheque at the Towne marks the film's U.S. theatrical premiere. A wider urban release is planned for early 2002. ... UC Berkeley will host an international conference next May with the irresistible theme "Born to Be Bad: Trash Cinema From the 1960s and 70s." Academics talking exploitation -- now that'sentertainment! Details are online at socrates.berkeley.edu/~tamao/Trash.htm.

Spectres of the SpectrumI don't often alert you to projects still at the screenwriting stage, but Craig Baldwin's half-formed ideas are more enjoyable than most people's finished films. The architect of alternaclassics O No Coronado! and Tribulation 99 is deep in the throes of devising another one-hour, quasi-experimental narrative. "This one is seated right in the subjectivity of my protagonist, a disoriented woman on the run from Scientology," Baldwin speed-briefs me. "It's a stream-of-consciousness road movie about access to knowledge and institutional surveillance. A lot of the soundtrack is intercepted cell-phone calls."

Baldwin, who doubles as the longtime maestro of the Other Cinema at the ATA Gallery, will shoot the as-yet-untitled film in Las Vegas and the Southwest, "drawing out of the mystique of the landscape." As per his usual modus operandi, he'll incorporate acres of black-and-white found footage. "It's not an exposé," he remarks drolly. "It's a pastiche." As if making a paranoid erotic thriller that catalogs our loss of privacy weren't sufficiently ambitious, the hyperenthusiastic Baldwin also conceives of his upcoming film as a parody of spy movies.

 
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