The theme of this year’s MIX Festival is “Launch Pad: The Future of Cinema and Sexuality,” but the most compelling selections (of the more than 100 presented) are those that look backward. Vintage offerings—such as Tom Chomont’s lusciously color-saturated short film Oblivion (1969) and Ricardo Nicolayevsky’s ’80sSuper-8 portraits Mariana and Ted—celebrate supine bodies, eagerly inviting all kinds of desiring, devouring gazes. The missteps in the series often result from either M.F.A.-thesis earnestness (Bryan McHenry’s The Cucumber Chronicles) or tedious childhood revisitations (Kathy High’s Shifting Positions); several works offer flashes of intelligence (seen in Gino Hoang and Byung Dredge’s Crimson and Christopher Cabral’s Zero: x.x.y.x, both of which reflect on gender fluidity) within cumbersome structures.
Michael Lucid’s short video doc Dirty Girls (shot when he was a senior in high school in 1996 but premiering only now) focuses on a group of outcast eighth-grade girls, who—historically located after the last gasps of the riot grrrl revolution and before the homicidal rampages of Trench Coat Mafia types—boast that they “just don’t give a shit” yet express their inchoate feminist rage in the pages of their zine. Lucid’s piece is a valuable addition to the annals of teendom, capturing the resilient scruffiness of head Dirty Girl Amber, slandered by her detractors as “the girl who hasn’t taken a shower since Kurt Cobain died.”
Cobain’s vocals make a guest appearance in Leslie Singer’s hilarious Taking Back the Dolls (1994), in which “Come as You Are” substitutes for Dionne Warwick’s “(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls.” This lascivious lesbo take on Jacqueline Susann’s quintessential camp novel remains faithful to Jackie’s love of the fervidly melodramatic while introducing its own inspired anachronistic flourishes, such as Jennifer North’s friendship with supermodel Gia. Camp appropriation is also used to uproarious effect in Michael Peyton and Richard Shurtliff’s Taking Back the Y, in which the swish choreographed movements of the Village People performing “YMCA” from that seminal 1980 film Can’t Stop the Music are generously interspersed with meat shots from XXX gay video. And as an exemplar of camp porn, CurtMcDowell’s 1975 feature Thundercrack! (with a screenplay—and star turn—by George Kuchar) is awash in bodily fluids and B-movie clichés; above all it showcases the impressive variety of mustaches popular in the mid ’70s.