Channel surfing

The 1994 Dallas Video Festival mixes equal parts ineptitude and brilliance

From Bloomers to Blush. (Nov. 17, 7 p.m., TV Diner.) See "Rushes" this week.

Genocyber. (Nov. 18, 10 p.m., TV Lounge.) The latest of the Video Festival's yearly efforts to sell stateside viewers on anime, or Japanese animation, isn't memorable: it's yet another futuristic cyberpunk epic about a young person chosen to carry a cosmic burden of extraordinary psychic power, which allows that same young person to change physical form and whoosh around the city, destroying cars, buildings, and human flesh at whim. Genocyber certainly has enough spectacular ultraviolence to make Stallone films look like Fred Astaire musicals in comparison (a headless body splatting against a wall is a keeper). But it lacks the demented energy that made Akira and even the repulsive Legend of the Overfiend so eye-catching. (MZS)

Godard's The Children Play Russian. (Nov. 19, 8:15 p.m., TV Lounge.) French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard has worked in video for years; he made this collage piece as part of a series of films by Westerners about the new Russia. Unfortunately, it's so dense and multilayered that sitting through it is like watching 500 channels of TV all at the same time. It has something to do with Motion Picture Association of America chief Jack Valenti plotting to invade Russia and replace its culture with American junk; Godard uses excerpts from 19th-century Russian novels, early Soviet films, and random clips from Western TV to recast the tale as yet another invasion of the motherland. The above is merely a guess, mind you. Godard never cared much for classical storytelling, and this time out, he doesn't seem to care much about explaining himself, either. Perhaps this should have been entitled Godard Plays with Himself. (MZS)

Good Stories Well Told. (Nov 19, 4 pm. TV Lounge.) The undisputed highlight of these four lackluster narrative shorts from Texas and California is Randy Clower's Circus of the Sexes, Part 2, in which a woman idealizes her late grandparents' relationship even while she indulges in an adulterous affair. Artists in attendance. (JF)

I Am the Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary. (Nov. 19, 3 p.m. Horchow Auditorium.) Produced and directed by Alan and Susan Raymond, this look inside a predominantly African-American school lets the camera loiter, picking up real people in comical, troubling, sometimes heartbreaking situations, then lets you put it in your own context. The result is the best examination of the promise and perils of public education since Fredrick Wiseman's 1970 classic, High School. It has already aired repeatedly on cable, but if you missed it, here's another chance. Director Susan Raymond in attendance. (MZS)

Interrotron Stories. (Nov 17, 9 pm, TV Diner.) If Florida crime reporter Edna Buchanan scripted America's Most Wanted for VH-1, you'd get Interrotron Stories, this true-life crime series produced, written, and directed by the talented documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time). Morris teases you along with dramatic reenactments featuring distortion effects and fast-cut editing, and cameras which can never stay still even when they're aimed at a talking head. The first episode, in which a jittery former postmaster defensively recounts his role in the murder spree of one of his employees, is riveting. After that, things cool down fast. The show is a slick product, so it isn't nearly as much fun as, say, Real Stories From the Highway Patrol, which knows it's brainless and seeks only to disgust or amuse you. (JF)

The London Advertising Awards. (Nov. 20, 1 p.m., Horchow Auditorium.) This assortment of the best TV spots from around the globe features a few you've no doubt seen before (including Pepsi's irritatingly knowing "Return to Woodstock" commercial). But it's worth seeing for the alternately thrilling and hilarious items from non-English speaking countries--especially a preserve-the-rainforest public service announcement from Brazil in which the birds and animals of the tropics come alive and shower a woodchopper with the crassest insults this side of a Sam Kinison routine. (MZS)

Marleneken. Part 1: (Nov. 17, 7 p.m., TV Lounge.) Part 2: (Nov. 18, 7 p.m., Video Box.) This final fictional feature by German director Karin Brandauer is a mammoth, epic work that reaches for greatness and only rarely succeeds. It's about a West German woman crossing the border to the East to see her sister and mother, from whom she was separated for virtually her entire life, and it mixes present-day political commentary about modern Germany and Europe with sepia-tinted childhood flashbacks that flare up when the heroine free-associates. In the sheer breadth of Brandauer's ambitions, the film comes on like a Teutonic Remembrance of Things Past, or a reality-based companion piece to Wim Wenders' classic Wings of Desire. But it's slow and patchy in places, and the main character is so internalized that her emotions are sometimes impenetrable. (MZS)

Memory. (Nov. 19, 7:45 p.m., TV Lounge.) Amazingly pretentious and muddled, this abstract dance-centered piece by Puerto Rican-born videomaker Edin Velez recasts the voyage of Columbus as a psychedelic music video full of twisting bodies, weird dissolves, and irritatingly elliptical dialogue. Skip it. (MZS)

The Misfits: 30 Years of Fluxus. (Nov. 18, 8:30 p.m., TV Diner.) Danish filmmaker Lars Movin put together this retrospective look at the New York-based group whose provocative public stunts (including holding a "music concert" in which a man in a tux bashed an expensive violin against a podium) cemented their status as forerunners of today's performance artists. Their ranks included Yoko Ono, video pioneer Nam June Paik, prankish atonalist John Cage, and many others. The mix of interviews, reminiscences, modern footage and archival images is fascinating, but the project could have stood a bit of pruning--and considering that Fluxus is, at best, a footnote to 20th century art, a decidedly less self-important tone. (MZS)

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