The Best Of The New York Underground

Three errors in seven words, and sad proof that a New York underground survives today less as a reality than as an advertising slogan. First, apart from Eugene Salandra’s mildly charming animated Faerie Film (1993), set in Greenwich Village, and the locations of a few postproduction facilities, these six shorts appear to have practically nothing to do with New York. Second, underground used to mean blissfully free and actively hostile toward institutions of all kinds, while these workswith the possible exception of Peter Sarkisian’s striking, aggressive Detritus (sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in high-contrast black and white with scary effects, shot in New Mexico)are basically student films, indebted to institutions for their production as well as most of their ideas, made largely to please professors. And third, if this is truly the best of what’s availablesomething I can’t believethen God save us all from the worst. The other titles are: Mike King’s Doper, a rather dull documentary about a casual dope dealer and his friends; Joshua Wintringham’s Pleasant Hill, USA, a documentary about a senseless killing in Ohio; Frank Sebastiano’s Spring Break, a light comedy about an ineffectual slob planning to kill a romantic rival; and Helen Stickler’s Queen Mercy, a meditation on exchanges in a porn parlor. (JR)

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