Microcinema mix 

The Crystal exposes more indie shorts

Fans of indie “microcinema” and animated shorts have another traveling film festival to look forward to this weekend at the Crystal Theatre: Independent Exposure (IE), one that has already made the rounds of a bunch of other countries—and even Antarctica. And it’s a pretty good selection (though not quite as good as last week’s Ottawa expo), consisting mostly of animation with a few short films, quasi-documentaries and film collages. Of the three programs, “Addictive TV” is the most diverse and satisfying, the all-mobile-phone-related “Mobile Exposure” the least, but hardly bad, with the all-animation program in the middle. For $2 per program, though, you really can’t go wrong.

IE Animation
Tina Willgren’s film, 75% PAL Bars Horse, has test-pattern color bars with minimal motion design and the sound of clomping hooves. I’m probably missing some Swedish art-joke when I say it left me unmoved, but at least it was pretty short. If it weren’t for the hooves it could be the menu of a Kraftwerk DVD.

Signe Baumane’s Dentist has good music and sound design, but at 10 minutes it outstays its welcome by at least three. A very odd dentist toys with a very nervous patient with an entire fish skeleton stuck in a tooth. This short spreads its charm a bit thin, and the resultant feeling is one of too much toast and not enough jelly. Baumane’s style is better served by a series of dentistry infomercials included in the “Addictive TV” lineup.

Elegant Disposition looks like footage of the animator’s friends goofing around mixed with macro footage of chlorophyll. No offense, Will Forrester, but this looks more like knob-twiddling than animation to me, like you’ve just learned a new digital trick and you’re applying it to everything. It reminds me of a local film I saw a few years ago that was basically 10 minutes of purple ink dripping into a toilet bowl, the toilet flushing and the whole process starting over again. As a video installation it would have been neat, but as a film it took advantage of its audience. Same with this one.

The animation of Walk for Walk looks like the cover of the Of Montreal record, The Gay Parade. The music sounds kind of like Of Montreal, too, with lots of burbles and squeaks and quavering weirdness, all contributing to the sensation of reading a kid’s barnyard book and suddenly noticing that you’re tripping on LSD. Or so I would imagine.

Look for Me is a humorous meditation on the pros and cons of waking up invisible one morning: “You wouldn’t want everybody to know. You only need a couple people to not be lonely.” The narration sounds like a field recording of an interview from a coffee shop, with the same breathy excitement of the “Penny” cartoons from “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.”

Also interesting is the Bulgarian film Tick Tack, with its pregnant birds with pendulous breasts and the knurled faces of vintage Rankin-Bass characters. The main character looks like a lady Bilbo, only seven months pregnant and wearing a slinky dress. And with a beak. I’m not saying it’s not weird.

IE Animation plays Thursday, Jan. 25, at 9 PM and Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 PM.

Mobile Exposure
The IE festival is sponsored by Panasonic. I don’t know if Panasonic makes mobile phones or not, but Big Electric calling for festival entries about mobile phones and their effect on life and art is kind of like a SPAM-sponsored recipe contest. A lot of the films in this program were shot on mobile phones. There’s one about all the nutty things you can do with mobile phones in Japan. One was animated from stills shot on a mobile phone and looks great. But it’s still too many movies about mobile phones.

Mobile Exposure plays Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7 PM and Friday, Jan. 26, at 9 PM.

Addictive TV
This program comprises highlights from the other two programs with a half-dozen or so other shorts. More of a short-film square meal than the other two, and too much to mention every entry in detail here.

One of the best repeats from “IE Animation” is an awesome comic guide to dating and relationships with pinstriped ’50s art and production design, and a vague air-travel theme. It endorses the Heimlich Maneuver as a great way to bond physically with your date. It’s the second-funniest film in the festival, after Pirates and Emperors, a spot-on send-up of an old “Schoolhouse Rock” episode. Boy in the Air, a kind of animated letter of complaint about a potentially harmful sunroom advertisement, is very droll as well.

Phil Hastings’ Memoria is a stunner: like the Quay Brothers flirting with Soviet styles that haven’t been seriously pursued since the 1930s. Strictly for antiquated aesthetics, its only rival in the festival is Carla Cope, which blends crystalline black and white Super 8 footage with blue-heavy color footage and weird stock footage displaying nearly every stage of ambient decay and disintegration. If you like that beat-up-old-home-movie look, this is your eye candy.

Addictive TV plays Friday, Jan. 26, at 7 PM and Saturday, Jan. 27, at 9 PM


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