By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
March 26, 7:30 p.m., Video Lounge
Hellhounds On My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson If nothing else, Robert Mugge's tribute to bluesman Robert Johnson clearly spells out his continuing influence on musicians ranging from the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir to Keb' Mo', both of whom perform on Hellhounds On My Trail, along with a variety of other guests, including Johnson's stepson Robert Lockwood Jr. Other than that, it's a fairly adroit historical document, a look back on a man that very few people actually ever saw in the first place, since he died more than 60 years ago. As a testament to his work as a musician, Hellhounds On My Trail hits the mark. As a look into his life, well, even a Behind the Music on Leif Garrett is more interesting. Fortunately, Mugge decided to concentrate on the former. (Z.C.)
March 24, 9:30 p.m., Videotheque
McKinney Avenue Contemporary
3120 McKinney Ave.
Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
History of Glamour Theresa Duncan has written and directed a really nice animated film that documents the life of fictional heroine Charles Valentine, a femme fatale with a man's name. Valentine's rise to the top of the fashion world is wittily chronicled through excellent writing, decent original music, good graphics, and a funny story. Her family history -- she comes from a long line of white-trash beauticians in Antler, Ohio -- is interwoven with her adventures in New York City. Sources close to Valentine are interviewed, documentary-style, and the celebrity herself explains it all throughout the film. One crack-up scene involved the cover girl's bashing an art museum -- called the Googenheim -- during a conceptual art happening. A couple of animated sequences are brilliantly executed, like the start of a rainstorm as seen through a car windshield. (A.M.H.)
March 26, 4:45 p.m., Video Lounge
Image Blend Compilation A standout in this compiled series is Framed by Curtains, which explores movement and muse with typically Asian sensibilities. But Eder Santos, the filmmaker, doesn't have a particularly Asian name. He starts out with a retina-burning art montage of white drawings on a black background; these images recur throughout the piece. Subtitles ask political questions, sidewalks dissolve into static, and people interact with subway cars and bullet trains in this film filled with beautiful, blurred images. The Curve of the World begs the question: What's the constant fascination with cameras in bushes? The Wobble Dobble Series is lively and spontaneous. Lost in Translation is an ambitious production by Australian Film Television and Radio School. And noteworthy if only for its full frontal nudity is My Father's Leg. Other titles in this series are Burning Contour Matrix; Confluence/Pensieri Rossi; and Four Storeys/Trip. (A.M.H.)
March 25, 8:45 p.m., Video Lounge
The Jazzman from the Gulag Eddie Rosner was the white Louis Armstrong -- that, or Armstrong was the black Eddie Rosner (at least, this enlightening documentary posits as much). Either way, it didn't help that Eddie Rosner was the Jewish Eddie Rosner, playing "degenerate music" (jazz) when the Nazis invaded Poland. A prominent big-band leader and trumpet player during the late 1930s and early '40s, Rosner had the world by the balls, until the Nazis bombed Warsaw and rendered it an unlivable shell. But Rosner persevered: Thanks to a Communist general, who was both vodka-drunk and a jazz fetishist, Rosner and his band became "the first jazz band of Russia"; Stalin was the band's biggest fan. But after the war, Rosner was denounced as "a peddler of depraved Western music" -- the fate of the German in post-war Russia, especially one who thought jazz had won the war. In 1946, Rosner landed in a Russian prison on charges of espionage; so much for the conquering hero. Pierre-Henry Salfati makes excellent use of archival footage, much of which is strikingly clear -- it belongs to a better yesterday. (R.W.)
March 24, 8:30 p.m., Videotheque
M. C. Escher: Metamorphose If you can get past the sappy narration and melodramatic score, this Netherlands production of the story of Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher's life is fairly interesting. The film overlays actual sites that inspired Escher onto his artwork in a tricky series of dissolves that provide unique insight into the artist's influences. Known for distortions, multiple perspectives in a single work, and trompe l'oeil in woodcuts and lithographs, Escher lived from 1898 to 1972. The ebbs and flows of his career mirror world history: He lived through World War II and watched his favorite teacher hauled off to a concentration camp. This film uses excellent vintage film footage with old interviews with Escher, and there is selected use of animation to highlight Escher's penchant for metamorphosis in illusion. He often used opposites -- black and white, devils and angels -- morphing out of one another, and his training as an architect is reflected in much of his work. (A.M.H.)
March 25, 6 p.m., Video Box
Mixed Bag Compilation Una Knox's Exquisite Corpse references surrealist visual artists in a creative exercise in which the video screen becomes her canvas. Her split-screen technique balances strangely cohesive images -- some abstract, some realistic, some surrealistic. The music and narration work perfectly with the rhythm of the changing images, and Knox seems to have a visual artist's interest in the color palette as a way to unify dissimilar subject matter. You might not think of video as a medium for showing off brush strokes of light and color, but the effect is unmistakably artful in Nurse Peace. Moving images seem to mirror microscopic studies of hair, water, and cells as they vibrate and change, complemented by an experimental music score. Footprints is a "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy" waste of time; think forest, stream, deer, poetry, yawn. The bucolic boredom changes to a nausea-inducing montage of urban traffic about halfway through the film. Skip it or snooze through. Other titles in this compilation are Retrato de la Generation de la Crisis, in Spanish with subtitles; and Have you seen this man?, a how-to on narcissism. (A.M.H.)
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!