When Hell Boils Over

Leslie Thornton’s father and grandfather worked on the original atomic bomb, which just may have contributed to her nagging anxiety about humankind vanishing in a flash of Cold War explosions. In the mid-’80s, the acclaimed experimental filmmaker embarked on a series of post-apocalyptic episodes at once whimsical and chilling. Peggy and Fred in Hell, as Thornton dubbed the ongoing project, follows a boy and a girl left on their own in a world erased of other humans but cluttered with the rubble of technology and the detritus of TV and radio broadcasts. The innocent, immature children are charming and irresistible, but their playfulness amid catastrophe inevitably evokes the mad irresponsibility of the adults ruling our world. Unsurprisingly, the calamitous events of 9/11 made Thornton rethink the direction of her opus. Tonight’s show concludes the artist’s three-part S.F. Cinematheque residency, “Tuned Always to a Shifting Ground,” with the entire Peggy and Fred saga, including the latest episode, “The Expiration.” Thornton puts a bow on the evening with a reading from the final, unfinished segment, “The Eradication.” Don’t act so glum. We’re still here, aren’t we?
Sun., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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