Naked eye

Turn on and tune in to the Dallas Video Festival

March 26, 4:45 p.m., Video Lounge

Circle's Short Circuit If this isn't the hottest ticket among festgoers in search of a true art film, it oughta be. Caspar Stracke's oddly muddled mess of four films-within-a-film points up how brilliantly performance art can work on video. Stracke employs every visual trick and special effect in the video book, but the quixotic mélange works -- and works hard. The basic theme of Circle's -- how the telephone was invented and how it affects the masses -- is explored at first through the pompous narration of a professorial woman who could be Annie Lennox's ugly stepsister. She drones on and on about Alexander Graham Bell ("I like to call him A.G.B.") and finally asks the burning question: Did schizophrenia invent the telephone, or did the telephone invent schizophrenia? Stracke then takes off on mental illness, drag queens, and martial arts using startling and creative visuals. In one sequence, heightened by experimental techno music, a cadaver's ear floats in and out over text and graphics of sound waves. You'll rave. (A.M.H.)

March 25, 9:30 p.m., Video Box

The Von Erich family tragedy is the subject of Faded Glory.
The Von Erich family tragedy is the subject of Faded Glory.
Chasing the blues: Guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. pays homage to his stepfather Robert Johnson in Hellhounds.
Chasing the blues: Guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. pays homage to his stepfather Robert Johnson in Hellhounds.

The Clash: Westway to the World Director Don Letts' documentary on The Clash is much like the recent reissue of the group's back catalog: The band's music sounds better than ever, but little is added to its history, and 1985's sans-Mick Jones Cut the Crap safely disappears. But Letts makes an old story seem fresh, thanks to his lengthy personal relationship with the band (dating back to his stint as a DJ at London's 100 Club, where he helped turn the group on to reggae), as well as almost unlimited access to both The Clash's memories and seemingly every scrap of film featuring any and all members of the band -- tours with the Sex Pistols and The Damned, Jones learning to play guitar in his bedroom pre-Clash, slopping paint on their clothes before their second gig ever. By telling the story almost exclusively through the band's own point of view -- save for a few extraneous comments by British journalists and photographers -- Letts does wring a bit of fresh insight from the group. It's doubtful that another director would be able to get Jones to admit he was as instrumental to his expulsion from the group as anyone else, or that more than two decades later, bassist Paul Simonon still resents the fact that he wasn't able to accompany Jones and Joe Strummer on their songwriting holiday to Jamaica. As Simonon recounts the story, he says more with increasingly extended pauses between words, his face falling a little more with each one. Simonon's story is possibly the most relevant now, because he's never come to terms with the group and how he fit into it, the years between then and now turning wine into vinegar. Though he remained in the band even for the regrettable Cut the Crap, he comes off as angrier than either drummer Topper Headon or Jones, both of whom were fired by Strummer. To hear him tell it, he was the one who never had his songs taken seriously. He was the one responsible for the band's early spray-paint-and-stencils look (which Strummer refers to as "either quite striking...or fairly ridiculous"). He was the one who grew up with black friends and reggae, both of which influenced The Clash from the beginning. He was the one who should have become a rock star via The Clash, mainly because he was the only one interested in the job, defiantly standing at the front of the stage because he "couldn't be Pete Townshend at the back." Even Headon, impossibly skinny and almost indecipherable after a few decades of hard luck and drug abuse, has made his peace with The Clash and himself, admitting, "Even if I had it to do over, I would have probably done the same thing" -- referring to the heroin addiction that led to his dismissal. It doesn't appear as if the same can ever be said about Simonon. (Zac Crain)

March 25, 7 p.m., Videotheque

Did We Go? To the moon, that is, and the answer is: Really, don't be a moron. Aron Ranen and Ben Britton's mockumentary -- and if it's meant to be taken seriously, these fellas are in the wrong business (or I am) -- can find only one man, simply named René, to support their "claim" (wink, wink) that all of NASA's moon landings have been hoaxes. René comes armed with moon-landing photos and insists that the shadows go every which way; that, and he claims the rocks on the moon are lettered, as if by a prop department (one allegedly bears a striking "C" on its surface). The author of a book titled NASA Mooned America, René's just about the most interesting thing in this shot-on-video film; would that the filmmakers stuck to telling his story (his Web site reveals he's also a would-be detective novelist, a former member of Mensa, and "a bright kid from the slums" -- we want to know more). As it is, they're more concerned with asking Buzz Aldrin whether he went to the moon. For, ya know, some chuckles. Shows with Moon 1969. (R.W.)

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