Made on the Margins

For 15 years, the Dallas Video Fest has flickered on the fringe

Hollywood Inferno (Episode One) Laura Parnes' recasting of Dante's Inferno into the fluorescent-lit hell of suburbia follows Sandy, wannabe actress and candy-counter clerk, as she trails shoe-fetishist screenwriter Virgil through a bargain-basement world of effed-up high schoolers and whatever else she could swipe from a Gregg Araki flick. Which is probably the point, for all I know, since Parnes brazenly brandishes her thievery throughout Hollywood Inferno; much of the dialogue is cribbed from other films and cut up for her own purposes, whether it's American Beauty ("Sometimes, there's so much beauty in the world...it makes me totally want to fucking puke," Sandy says), A Clockwork Orange or "anything with Willem Dafoe or Christopher Walken in it," as she points out in the credits. It all leads up to a scene where Kel O'Neil (playing a famous director, like it matters) does his best Walken doing his best George Lucas doing the best drugs while wearing a mask of Dafoe's face. But of course. (ZC)

Hotel Mike Figgis, Oscar-nominated a mere six years ago for directing Leaving Las Vegas, further slides into self-indulgent oblivion, irrelevance and, most of all, incoherence; if there's a point to Hotel, his latest shot-in-digital-video botched experiment, it's on the top of the filmmaker's head. This all-star shambles renders his previous film, the four-paneled Time Code, almost quaint by comparison; at least one could tell where it was going, if only straight down the commode. No doubt, Figgis lured his cast--including John Malkovich, David Schwimmer, Lucy Liu, Selma Hayek, Rhys Ifans, Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Valeria Golino and, in a hilariously deadpan-nuts performance, Burt Reynolds--with the promise of partying in Venice, where the story takes place; everyone appears out of it, hungover and disinterested. A film within a film, Hotel ostensibly documents the Dogme-styled adaptation of John Webster's 1623 play The Duchess of Melfi, directed by Ifans' manic Trent Stoken and produced by Schwimmer's disheveled Jonathan Danderfine, who plots his helmer's assassination. At one point, Schwimmer and Ifans bark at each other, literally; it's dog-eat-dog, till they start dining on people. Documentary filmmakers, fronted by a grating Hayek, tag along, proving as pretentious as Ifans' motley crew. The random inside jokes elicit the cheap smirk (Jason Isaacs, one of the stars of Black Hawk Down, begs out of Melfiearly to shoot a Ridley Scott movie, har har). And, with its pointlessly gratuitous sex scenes (including one in which Burrows buggers her man from behind, just as she, ahem, gives birth) and gratuitously pointless references to cannibalism (Malkovich, inexplicably behind bars, dines off a plate of human carapaccio), the damned thing's screwy and senseless enough to hypnotize. Or maybe it's supposed to be ludicrously wretched and laughably twisted, in which case, bravo. (RW)

Independent Spirits: Faith Hubley/ John Hubley The animated films of John and Faith Hubley--the best known of which aired during The Electric Company, rendering them one of the most unwittingly influential filmmakers on a generation--would often feature the voices of their children (among them Emily, currently an animator, and Georgia, lead singer of Yo La Tengo) and jazzers (Dizzy Gillespie was a blessed constant). But theirs were often grim cartoons that dazzled even as they dealt with such topics as overpopulation, disease, war and death; the Hubleys were satirists with enormous hearts. John began as a Disney animator working on the likes of Snow White and Dumbo; he left after the acrimonious Disney strike of 1941, moved to Columbia, wound up on the underground all-star team of animators at, of all places, the Army's First Motion Picture Unit and went on to co-found the filmmaking collective United Productions of America. Faith came to filmmaking through a more circuitous route, beginning as a messenger on the Columbia lot. The two married in 1955, and theirs was a fruitful partnership: They won Oscars, made commercials (which Faith didn't much care for) and animated The Doonesbury Specialin 1977--the year of John's death at 62 years old. Faith would continue making more experimental films; hers were almost line drawings, abstract enough to let the viewer fill in the myriad, magical blanks. Faith died last December, but the Hubleys left an extraordinary legacy; without them, says one fellow animator, there'd be no Simpsons, as one small instance. Sybil DelGaudio and Patty Wineapple's doc is wonderful but frustrating; it leaves you wanting to see more of the couple's films. (RW)

The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in  Mike Figgis' Hotel.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in Mike Figgis' Hotel.

Details

May 16-19. Tickets, ranging from $65 for an all-fest pass including Video Association of Dallas membership to $10-$15 for single-day passes, are available at the door or at www.videofest.org. The opening-night film, Hotel, will screen at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.
Dallas Theater Center Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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Kimono Ostensibly made for a collection of erotic shorts, this 27-minute offering from Hal Hartley (whose latest feature, No Such Thing, is so terrible it's going straight to home video) isn't erotic...or even fathomable. The apologist might refer to it as a cinematic tone poem; the pragmatist will damn it as a monotone poem, rightly so. A Japanese woman in a wedding dress is booted out of a car, presumably by her new husband, and wanders the woods in her gown. After a while, she stumbles upon a cabin, falls asleep in its comfy bed and awakens in a different outfit; she's tended to by two women (apparitions, perhaps) who set her in a bath and pour milk on her legs. More stuff happens, by which I mean absolutely nothing happens; it's a dream, it's not, who cares. By then, the apologist is asleep. (RW)

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