The sixth annual hi/lo film festival's organizers, Killing My Lobster, stress the fest's dedication to "high concept, low budget" filmmaking. In fact, one of their many slogans is "40 million dollars can kill a good idea." Using the brain and not the wallet produces better movies, they argue, and to prove their point they trot out:
Complex symbolism in Michelle Dean's Making
Love (Out of Nothing at All).
Making Love (Out of Nothing at All), a digital video piece by Michelle Dean of San Francisco, could be described as high-tech and low-concept -- the image manipulation is great, but singing hot dogs? Air Supply is always a good target, and there are a few yuks to be had, but it's something of a one-trick pony. At least it's short. More impressive is Fast Forward #1, another DV work, this one by Alec Joler of Lawrence, Kan. It begins with a guy beatboxing over a shot of LEGO animation, and the first 10 seconds seem to forecast a crappy-looking trip through the mind of an idiotic twentysomething. But at second No. 11 it turns into a hilarious action-movie satire and a tribute to the minds of 4-year-olds everywhere. The movement of the toys as they blow each other up, shoot each other in the head, and screech their cars around corners is hysterical. The tissue-paper explosions are also awesome, as is the dialogue.
The work presented by hi/lo in the past has been called a lot of names; one that comes up with some regularity is "mixed bag." This year is no exception, but many of the films are charming, quirky, and far better than the major-budget pap that crawls out of Hollywood. Call of the Wild, the rare 35mm movie (by Julia Sarcone-Roach of Brooklyn), combines beautiful, scratchy animation with a perfect balance of incomprehensibility and humor. The fruit bat square-dancing scene is flawless. Back in the DV camp, In Praise of American Leftists by Paul Chan of Chicago is a cool, film-looking thing that chronicles the mouth- and chin-related facial hair of about a hundred people. They all appear strangely cartoonish, and at the end is an interesting explanation. San Franciscan Ramsel Ruiz weighs in with Beige, which makes a sharp comment on the quality of suburban life and looks much more richly textured than most DV work. (Unfortunately, the quality of the voice-over isn't as high as that of the visuals.) I would rather not spend any more time with Andrew Dickson of Portland, Ore., but his digital video, Hunter Dawson -- a faux reality-TV-show audition tape -- is so funny that I have no choice but to hang with him for another few minutes. The layers of possible meaning and interpretation boggle the mind: This is a fake of a pretense to a "reality" that everyone knows is fake. You've got to see it to believe it.