Pixel Pleasures

The tenth annual Dallas Video Festival shows why video is eclipsing film as the mass art medium

In Harm's Way paints the background in which Krawitz was reared and then shocks us into the present with the gruesome recounting of her rape in a Lubbock motel. But her video is less about the rape than it is how ill-prepared she was, since childhood, to cope with the terror of a harsh and ugly world. It isn't the Fisher-Price streets of playtime that we have to fear, but the real world in all its lingering brutality. To Krawitz, masking the truth with denial may be the most dire, if unintentional, legacy of the '50s. (AWJ)

In Harm's Way January 12, 2:30 p.m., TV Lounge.

James Dean I'm a Fool and Unlighted Road, two rare James Dean television appearances, are novelties of the Golden Age of TV, and they have some appeal as such. What they don't have are many dramatic credentials. Dean is always compelling to watch, but he's working with sub-par material here. The best thing about these shows is Dean, squirming around in his seat and looking uncomfortable in his suit as he offers a brief introduction to one segment; even then, his style is intense. (AWJ)

I'm a Fool and Unlighted Road. January 11, 12 noon, Horchow Auditorium.

Karaoke. What twisted pathologies ravaged the mind of Dennis Potter? A friend once referred to him as "a British Steven Bochco," but that does them both a disservice. While both are obsessed with the style of the work, there's a moral and emotional weight, a commentary on the human condition, apparent in every frame of Potter's television programs (The Singing Detective) and movies (Pennies from Heaven, Dreamchild) often missing from Bochco. (Anyway, Bochco is a producer, not a writer.) A better analogy might be that Potter is a TV version of Woody Allen, without the reliance on gags. Karaoke is about scriptwriter Daniel Feeld (played by Albert Finney), who, while working on a show called Karaoke, starts hearing the dialogue he has written being spoken on the street. Is life imitating art or vice versa? This is an intriguing premise that Potter effectively expands to a four-hour miniseries. Potter toggles us between reality and illusion--we're not always sure what world we're operating in, and ultimately that is his point. How much is happening to Daniel Feeld and how much is he causing? Like Potter's earlier work, Karaoke deals with how we view popular music and what we attach to songs--songs have both a unique personal effect on each of us that others can't understand and that goes beyond the lyrics themselves. Potter died in 1995 of cancer, and such an autobiography adds a sad layer to the story--a writer at the end of his life and career, hoping he's made a difference. (AWJ)

Karaoke. January 9, 7 p.m., TV Lounge; reruns on January 10, 7 p.m., TV Diner.

London International Advertising Awards. The London International Advertising Awards have virtually replaced the American Clios as the preeminent ad award since a debacle in years past when the Clios went bankrupt. These winning television commercials from around the globe demonstrate genuine creativity in video production--a nifty mix of visual expertise, comic gags, and lots of salacious innuendo. Highlights include a painfully powerful public service announcement about heroin, a female undergarment ad that will astonish you with its sly and suggestive sexuality, a cheeky Guinness commercial, and the usual collection of memorable Nike and Reebok ads. (AWJ)

London International Advertising Awards. January 11, 1 p.m., Horchow Auditorium.

Socialism or Death. The "rock 'n' roll will never die" cliche is revived with chilling enthusiasm in Socialism or Death, a searing documentary by filmmakers Bengt Norborg and Bo Sand. The duo recorded a series of painfully intimate interviews with a Latino youth culture that has received scant attention in the international press--the so-called "rocqueros" of Cuba, teenagers and twentysomethings whose identification with the nihilism and anger of America's pop music poets led them to take a rather unique stand against Castro's police-enforced conformism. Their rebellion is to inject themselves with syringes full of blood from HIV-positive friends. Most of the self-injected "rockers" were compelled to infect themselves because of a 1988 law that empowered police to arrest practically any youth who was determined a "danger to society"--long hair, controversial T-shirts, tattoos, unemployment, and obnoxious musical tastes are all grounds for detainment or fines. Those most affected by the law were long-haired, occasionally dreadlocked, body-pierced, tattooed, chronically unemployed young men (and a few women) who were painfully aware of the difference between communism on paper and in practice. Of course, the first AIDS cases had begun to appear in Cuba just a few years before, and many of the disaffected youth were already associating with the outsiders most affected by HIV.

Socialism or Death chronicles their daily routine, which alternates between ecstatic nights at the local rock 'n' roll clubs and slacker days supported by their beleaguered parents. Those who've advanced from HIV-positive status to full-blown AIDS get the "privilege" of living in Cuba's state-funded hospices. Chronicled two years ago by 60 Minutes, these quarantine facilities provided free food and housing with restricted visitation privileges. Still, among the poor "rockers" of Cuba, the idea of being fed, clothed, and allowed to spend idle hours listening to their favorite tunes was too attractive to pass up. Besides, many of them reasoned, American researchers would find a cure before they got sick. An activist Catholic priest interviewed in Socialism or Death confirms that almost all the first wave of injectors died before they turned 25, confident until the end they would be rescued by the powers of foreign medicine. Perhaps the most heart-stopping image in Socialism or Death is a 19-year-old, self-infected HIV-positive man praying in the Catholic church he has just rediscovered. During the mass, he wears a T-shirt with Kurt Cobain's picture on it. (JF)

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