Chicago Underground Film Festival 1997 Program




6:00 PM

Part 1 of The Jack Smith Retrospective
Sponsored by
Flaming Creatures Jack Smith, 16mm experimental short, 1 min., 1961

In Jack Smith’s best-known film, characters cavort in a setting reminiscent of the court of Ali Baba, with a mood suggestive of the paintings of Heironymous Bosch. It’s a quasi-documentary of Androgynes and Transvestites, where flaccid penises and bouncing breasts are so ambiguous that distinction between male and female blurs. In Flaming Creatures, Smith manages to combine the ornate imagination of his youth with the realities of adult fantasy.

7:45 PM

Running Time Josh Becker, 16mm narrative feature, 70 min., 1997 Carl’s been a model prisoner. Ran the prison laundry, never caused any trouble, kept his mouth shut. During his exit interview, the warden praises his complete rehabilitation and sends Carl out the gates to freedom. OK, you saw this coming…the minute he’s out Carl’s planning a heist–stealing mob money from the prison warden. And the minute after that everything starts to go wrong…the driver his old buddy’s hired is a junkie; the gang can’t synchronize their watches; the safecracker can’t handle a high-tech new safe. Shot in real time and in one continuous take, (Hitchcock did it first with Rope; Becker’s only the second in feature-film history to attempt the technique.) Running Time is a darkly comic look at what happens when you don’t expect the unexpected. Shown With

Writer’s Block

Eric Heroux, 16mm narrative short, 2 min.1997

This lonely individual will come face-to-face with his own BRAIN in order to conquer WRITER’S BLOCK!! (Do try this at home. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work very well.)

9:30 PM

Weed Doug Wolens, 35mm documentary feature, 64 min., 1996 You’ve probably heard of the tennis Davis Cup. And the hockey Stanley Cup. When the very best in the field is determined. You may not be aware that there’s also an annual marijuana Cannabis Cup. This documentary covers the 8th Annual Cannabis Cup and Hemp Expo, held in weed-friendly Amsterdam. Everyone from Patagonia-clad slackers to chic urban business women to blunt toking homeboys and the requisite crumbling old hippies converges on the city for the Cup. Shown with

MPG: Motion Picture Genocide

Robert C. Banks, Jr., 35mm experimental short, 4 min., 1997

Banks used short ends of film scrounged from Telling Lies in America to make this commentary on the current state of the main-stream American film industry.


Half-Spirit Henri Barges, 35mm feature, 90 min., 1995

In a cold white-tiled cell, a thin young girl writes on her skin, whispering, feverish, desperate, listening to the voice of the spider living inside her head. Is it madness, a dream, an escape, imprisonment? Go back to when Half-Spirit (Catherine Ussel) was a whole woman, before the terrible accident that led to her husband’s derangement, to her imprisonment and ultimately to her escape. She re-enters the world in a seedy part of Paris, but it’s become surreal, almost unrecognizable. There is no more thought process, no morality or balance. There is only reaction and survival; every minute brings an equal chance of life or death. Randomness becomes the norm: Badfly, (Philippe Spiteri) a man she’s never seen before, tries to kill her by pushing her off a bridge. She becomes infatuated with Gil, (Marc Duret) a surly motorcyclist who’s delivering a mysterious package to the Russian border. And all of them are quietly and ominously followed by a sinister, amoral priest (Jacques Fontan) who believes in nothing but sex, money and death. Beautifully shot in decomposing Europe, Half-Spirit is the story of people drowning in their own illusions. Featuring music by P.J. Harvey, The Breeders, Green Jelly, Mind Bomb and others.

Propulsive, bizarre and extreme, Henri Barges’ movie lives in a tight, mad, desperate world of its own…plays like the love child of Breathless and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing. – Jay Carr, The Boston Globe