Since “new media” is associated with the overhyped dot-com boom and bust, the new favored buzzwords are “emergent uses of media technologies,” “new platforms,” and the ever-popular “digital revolution.” Forget the gear; what's noteworthy is the burst of experimental work produced by the latest generation of audio/video/computer mavens. These vanguard artists are spreading the poetic-film gospel of the avant-garde to moviegoers jaded and sedated by narrative (fictional and documentary), while tapping into a tradition extending to the beginning of cinema.
In The Eye of the Pilot, the four-man band Addictive TV offers a delectable and sophisticated blend of sound and image. The group's live show marries a French pilot's '50s tourist footage and entrancing electronic and guitar music to create a dreamscape travelogue that erases all borders between then and now, there and here. The program begins with an hour of computer-generated shorts curated by the British group for the Optronica visual music festival. It's a grab bag of styles and quality, like any compilation — a few gems mixed in with pieces seemingly inspired by Etch-a-Sketch doodling or (worse) videogame sets.
The “new platforms” lineup, which the festival calls Kinotek, features another tempting live performance of projected imagery entitled “Scribble, Scrapple, I.C. You.” The Internet's growing contribution to moving pictures is acknowledged in “Cock Byte: Masters of Machinima,” which transposes installments of the online 3-D computer-graphics series Red vs Blue: Blood Gulch Chronicles and The Strangerhood to the big screen.
After these accomplished yet chilly digital pieces, Harry Smith's charming Heaven and Earth Magic is like a fairy-tale book come to life. Better known nowadays as an invaluable mid-century musicologist, Smith made several animated films, including this sublime 1962 expedition into the subconscious. Local favorite Deerhoof performs its witty original score to accompany the movie, then jams to Smith's early abstract experiments with shapes, textures, color, and dancing cutouts.
The Late Show, this year's series of pictures from the edge (of cult fandom and/or bad taste), isn't so much groundbreaking as outright loony. Along with the obligatory horror (The Descent) and rock 'n' roll (Metal: A Headbanger's Journey) flicks, a pair of demented Japanese fantasies tempt the unwary. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is an outlandish and sophomoric example of pinku eiga, or soft-core porn. A call girl gets mixed up with a spy, a professor (in a sequence lifted from the Woody Allen short story The Whore of Mensa), Bush's cloned finger, and Armageddon. Any resemblance to Deep Throat, Kiss Me Deadly, and Dr. Strangelove is purely accidental, I'm sure.
The inspiration for Executive Koala, by contrast, seems to have been bad pot and Luis Buñuel. It starts out as a straightforward corporate drama — notwithstanding that the main character is an upright koala in a suit and tie — with a tinge of black comedy, but flies off the tracks in a whirlwind of slasher killings, dream sequences, and brief but brilliant musical numbers. Amusing in spurts if eminently forgettable, these Japanese escapades disdain gadgetry to embrace another venerated movie tradition: the need to entertain. — Michael Fox
Addictive TV: Monday, May 1, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki
“Scribble, Scrapple, I.C. You”: Friday, April 28, 7 p.m., AMC Kabuki
“Cock Byte: Masters of Machinima”: Sunday, April 23, 6:30 p.m. AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 25, 9:30 p.m, Pacific Film Archive; Wednesday, May 3, 6:45 p.m., Aquarius
Heaven and Earth Magic: Thursday, April 27, 9:45 p.m., Castro
The Descent: Saturday, April 29, 11:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, May 1, 4 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Metal: A Headbangers Journey: Friday, April 21, 10:30 p.m, AMC Kabuki; Monday, April 24, 1:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki
The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai: Saturday, April 22, 11:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 25, 1:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Executive Koala: Friday, April 28, 10:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, May 2, 4:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki