For most of the year, New Yorkers craving avant-garde films must go to the Lower East Side (Anthology Film Archives or the Film-Makers
Souvenir, Souvenir, with its sharp, rapid edits between faces and bursts of sudden color, delights in dissolving people over animals and vice versa, as a tiger walks straight through a naked boy, whose image then fades to make way for an upright growling polar bear and a slew of friendly oxen. Positano opens with guys and a girl on a motorbike, with lots of gauzy red, blue, purple, and green soaking in around the edges of the frame. It’s a good-looking movie with naked people and comic books. The problem with these kinds of handmade films, though, is that they usually don’t add up to much more than the sum of their images, and both films offer beautiful imagery without giving that much more.
La Deuxième Femme, though, offers plenty. Beginning with a close-up of a wide-open eye over a black-and-white costume picture, the 48-minute film goes on to cram in as many media references as it can probably manage. A man walking toward the camera dissolves into TV footage of Nixon; Bob Marley in concert gets replaced with an angry, shirtless white man holding a mic. As Karloff’s Frankenstein and I Dream of Jeannie clips ensue with a bit of wit dropped in (the semi-visible shapes on TV look like sheep, until you realize they’re protesters), your mind keeps drifting back to an early shot of a man filming himself in a mirror. Moments like that make you remember an actor made this movie. The more you watch, though, the more you realize that he was a pretty good cameraman too.
The 48th New York Film festival runs from September 24 to October 10. For a complete schedule, including ticketing information, click here.