Fright Night

"Facing Fear I & II"

What with Y2K, runaway rents, Waco, Rudy Giuliani as art critic, and a thousand other scary forces, fear and trembling — once the exclusive province of existentialists and the paranoid — have become a standard part of Everyman's MO. The thoughtful folks at the S.F. Cinematheque have arranged two programs around this ever-popular theme, “Facing Fear I & II,” and the entries run the gamut from Hitchcock and David Lynch to Stan Brakhage and Beth B. Alfred. Hitchcock's undeservedly obscure Breakdown (1956) is the weightiest entry. In one of Hitch's most harrowing works, car wreck victim Joseph Cotton is slowly stripped of his clothes and defenses, events gruesomely recorded in the actor's unhinged voice-over. On a sweeter note is Mattias Muller's widely acclaimed Alpsee (1994), which colorfully revisits '50s repressions as viewed by a little boy. Most charming image: Mother pouring milk from a bottomless pitcher, which results in a milk-flooded world, thanks to some amusing miniatures. In Clepsydra (1992), optical printing whiz Phil Solomon uses degraded found footage to construct a mysterious melodrama involving a little girl and a huge, ominous clock. Of course, paranoia isn't just for people, as Janie Geiser's Immer Zu (1997) proves. Geiser atmospherically renders a noir universe of entrapped paper dolls, jerkily moving through a dark papier-mâché world toward an unknown destiny. The second program — described as “an interdisciplinary performance plus 'Crimes of Courage and Fear'” — promises to be even stranger. Watch that exit door! “Facing Fear I & II” start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17 and 24, respectively, at the San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 558-8129.

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