Daily Archives: May 5, 1995

No More Sweets for You

The main message of this interesting program of 16 short films and videos selected by Chicagoan Elisabeth Subrin–nearly all of them by artists under 30 from around the country–seems to be that minimalism is finally over. An exception may be Sadie Benning’s black-and-white German Song, a rarity in that it’s a music video that breathes, but my two favorites among the seven I’ve seen–Cauleen Smith’s Chronicles of a Lying Spirit and Tran T. Kim-Trang’s Aletheia–are busy works that bombard the viewer with material and information. Smith’s film recycles cacophonous combinations of sound, images, and words as it sketches the history of blacks in America as if it all happened to a single individual; Kim-Trang’s work, even more experimental, begins by exploring the cosmetic surgery undergone by some Asian women to alter their eyelids and proceeds to broader reflections about westernization, blindness, race, and sexuality through the use of clips, quotations, maps, and different kinds of raw footage. The other artists in the show, eight of whom are Chicagoans, are Nancy Andrews, Tammy Rae Carland, Amanda Cole, Shari Frilot, Leah Gilliam, Sean Kryston, Laura Nix, Helen Mirra, Jeanine Oleson, Jennifer Reeves, Jon Schluenz, Kirsten Stoltman, and Kristen Thiele. Randolph St. Gallery, 756 N. Read more

Final Accord

My favorite Douglas Sirk film–made in Germany in 1936, when he was still known as Detlef Sierck–is a dazzlingly cinematic, fast-moving melodrama built around classical music; it’s alternately perverse, exalted, and delirious. Shuttling back and forth between New York and Berlin with an ease that suggests those cities were in closer proximity to each other in the 30s than they are today, the opening sequences present a destitute widow (Maria von Tasnady) recovering her will to live by listening to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on the radio, broadcast live from Germany, where the conductor (Willy Birgel) is coincidentally in the process of adopting her little boy. When she returns to Berlin she goes to work as the boy’s nanny, concealing the fact that she’s his mother, while the conductor’s less musically inclined wife (Lil Dagover) tries to break free from an astrologer-blackmailer who’s threatening to expose her adultery with him. There’s also a creepy and seemingly malevolent maid, a climactic trial, and several sequences involving music and duplicity that produce some astonishing visual cadenzas and editing rhyme effects. (This is the film that inspired Sirk to note that camera angles “are a director’s thoughts” and “lighting is his philosophy.”) The movie was an enormous success in Germany when it came out, and it isn’t hard to understand why; it’s the finest Nazi-era fiction feature I’ve seen. Read more