Still, this wouldn't be the Underground Film Festival if it didn't have an abundance of body horror and other kinds of subversions. A few hours of running through tapes of short films and videos yielded the observation that the last frontier of disturbing imagery involves children. The act of taping or filming a child suggests an imbalance of power that's potentially threatening to the child and dangerous for the person holding the camera as well. Miranda July's haunting Nest of Tens weaves together four stories about power, control, and confrontation. This is easily July's best piece, a jump up from her more associative and mysterious The Amateurist. July presents Nest of Tens on a program that features "I Saw Bones," the latest in her series of "Big Miss Moviola" compilation videos, this one curated by Rita Gonzalez.

Mother load: Lewis stoops to conquer in Orphans.
photo: Alan Wylie
Mother load: Lewis stoops to conquer in Orphans.

Details

Orphans
Written and directed by Peter Mullan
Released by the Shooting Gallery Film Series with Loews Cineplex Entertainment
At the State Theatre
Opens March 10

The New York Underground Film Festival
At Anthology Film Archives
March 8 through 14

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Although I can't exactly recommend it as a pleasurable experience, the film that stays with me most vividly is the feature Migrating Forms, by a young Chicago filmmaker, James Fotopoulos. A kind of stripped-down Eraserhead, shot in low-contrast black and white in the style of cheap '40s porn loops, the film is set inside a single room that looks like the basic set you'd find in an acting class—a table with a chair at either end and a bed. The room is occupied by a stolid-looking guy and his cat and is visited repeatedly by a pudgy woman who strips off her clothes, gets on the bed, and has sex with the man. Sometimes the sex scenes are so softly focused and underexposed you can't tell what's going on. At other times, you see more than you would want. The woman has a large hideous growth on her back (rather like the phallic growth in Marilyn Chambers's armpit in Cronenberg's Rabid). Soon the man discovers a similar growth on his shoulder. Midway through the film, an exterminator knocks at the door. After that, dead insects and rodents put in an appearance. Inevitably, the corpse of the cat turns up as well. Migrating Forms has a formal purity and obsessive power that's all too rare these days. It's not a film you'd ever find at Sundance (Blair Witch is a party by comparison). It alone gives the Underground Film Festival a reason for being.

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