Gerry Fialka presents Pixel Visions: The Best of Pixel This
Thurs July 12, 8 pm
Guild Theater @ NW Film Center

I had a really, really bad day last Sunday. I woke up hung over, got into a fight, and then had to hug my best friend goodbye as she left town indefinitely. By the time I got home to watch the preview tape of Pixel This, there wasn't a lot that could cheer me up.

But somehow, this bizarre collection of shorts temporarily did the trick--as I was slumping on the couch, the first short came on. "Dancing Dog," it was called, and it was a narrative-like sequence that involves a woman drawing a picture of a dancing dog and then doing a puppet show with an actual stuffed dog. (Get it? Dancing dogs?)

I think it was the sheer quirkiness of this two-hour collection of about 15 shorts by such filmmakers as Kate Perotti, Rich Ferguson, Farah Rocker, and even Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, that snapped me out of my bad mood. The collection is named after the kind of camera used to shoot the films, the Pixelvision (referred to as PXL) Fisher Price toy camera of the late 1980s. Originally intended just for kids, the PXL has become a coveted, campy tool among indie filmmakers.

One of the PXL's most defining characteristics is that it records on normal audiocassette tapes. Gerry Fialka, who edited and organized PXL 2000, explains the effect of this limited bandwidth: "It produces an image that looks sort of like what black and white Super 8 film might look like if it was left in the middle of a busy street for an afternoon, and then run through a projector. The overall effect is grainy, with lots of dropout and a weird, almost slow-motion appearance." I couldn't have said it any better myself; the films come off as some kids just fucking around with a camera. But, the filmmakers also tailor the content of the film to match the quality--mostly non-linear, loosely connected films that leave you confused and challenged.

As my roommate and I watched, our self-pity was quickly replaced with wonder. "This isn't like, arty, arty," said roomie, "it's more 'what-the-hell-is-this-shit-about,' arty." She was right. We spent most of the time trying to discern what a dancing puppet had to do with anything relevant to our life, or anyone's for that matter.

After we decided that we were too dumb to figure it out, we lost interest in a lot of the rest of the shorts and went back to feeling sorry for ourselves. By the end, I had fully embraced my despair and was nearly back to where I had begun. But if you're looking for a campy mindfuck to snap you out of your stupor (at least 15 minutes worth), Pixel This is the program for you.