Brief Encounters

Pith and Vinegar

Robert Arnold's Triptych—one of the opening-night selections at the 34th Annual New York Exposition of Short Film and Video (through November 19 at the NYU Cantor Film Center)—shows how a movie can profitably eat itself. Appearing initially to be a single postcard shot of some buildings, assorted pedestrians, and a passing train in the Polish city of Posnan, it immediately begins to gnarl up. Two trees cut the shot into titular thirds and soon a ménage à trois between worlds is under way: Trains pass through the trees and don't emerge; cars blur as they pull out of the frame. Flatly proposing three time zones of the same place, Arnold's video nails this townscape with one magically low-key take.

Another stripped-down one-shotter is My Parents Read Dreams I've Had About Them. Never deviating from a static American Gothic close-up of his Jewish ma and pa, videomaker Neil Goldberg (represented on-screen as a hairy forearm handing his parents a transcription of his selected dream) submits his mother to a wooden prosthetic arm and a Jerry Lewis bloodletting gag, while his father gets the brunt of death visions—though neither ever cracks a discernible expression.

Taking both the womb's and the woman's points of view, Drugged grossly details the sensations of an abortion. An aestheticized anesthetic of atrocious body images swarming around to buzzy music, Drugged concludes with a Tarkovsky quote: a mini-swamp of surgical instruments piled in a bucket. By the time you get to the hammy dream scene of mother and child in a swimming pool, you're ready to follow the video's first subtitle: "May I feel bad after that?"

A bit feel-bad and far more cool, Le Fetichiste raises the stakes on Truffaut's mid-'70s legwork. Julien (La Promesse's Jeremie Renier) is a foot man with the mad luck to land a salesman's post in a shoe boutique. Somewhat drunk on his newfound power, his addiction eventually yields to director Nicolas Klein's need to display a full array of trendy pumps and platforms, mostly god-awful. The NY Expo itself remains a great place to get drunk on pithy, vibrant movies.

 
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