TBA'S FILM PROGRAMMING runs the gamut this year—some of it traverses cities, some of it virtually stands still; some of it spans the globe, and some of it stays right here in Portland's backyard.
Of particular local interest is the obscure 1996 film Crock: The Motion Picture, produced by artists and musicians in the city's indie art scene. Crock, a full-length Hi8 feature based on comic strip about the French Foreign Legion, was so underground that virtually no trace of its existence remains, aside from a few listings of its soundtrack by the band Bugskull.
The story is concerned with the efforts of Pretty Boy and his sister Flossie to overthrow the colonial regime in an unspecified North African country. Flossie employs an all-woman militia, while Pretty Boy, with a legionnaire named Maggot, seeks to steal the iron fist of Commandant Vermin P. Crock.
Crock's screening at TBA marks the 13th anniversary of the Portland film, complete with live commentary from the director and principal actors on Saturday, September 5—and a chance for audiences to decide whether this long-buried classic really deserves to see the light of day.
Another local offering comes from Melody Owen, whose circles and spinning wheels and if i could crowd all my souls into that mountain are two collections of short films, assembled on her travels and featuring a wide variety of cinematic styles. Music video, short-form documentary, and animation all play a part in exploring Euclidean geometry (circles and spinning wheels) and Owen's exploration of the artist (if i could crowd all my souls into that mountain).
Speaking of artistic exploration, what happens when an actor's greatest tool is taken away? For Erased James Franco, the single-named director Carter asked actor James Franco to reenact scenes from a multitude of his small and big screen projects. However, Carter asked that Franco not emotionally delve into the various characters he'd played before. The result is a man putting on gestures and masks as if he were trying on clothes in a department store. It's odd to see Franco move through a one-man, live-action montage of his career, picking up a telephone again and again, each ring representing another soulless line without an emotion behind it.
TBA also includes two silent slideshows from Hitoshi Toyoda, which walk the line between film and photographic installation. The images made by this self-taught photographer are essentially first-person narrative documentation of his daily life, but each color-saturated photograph functions as a frame of film ticking by at slow speed. In other hands, this sort of documentation might lead to a kind of tedious, neurotic self-reflection—but Toyoda has traveled far and wide with his eyes trained toward those he meets and their environments, rather than toward himself. Nazuna includes such diverse subjects as a security guard working on his dream to become a famous kickboxer and the search for Japanese Amish. Toyoda's other slideshow, spoonfulriver, documents another journey that takes him from the streets of New York, through Copenhagen and Japan, and back to New York.
If Toyoda's manual slideshows are film slowed to a crawl, Between Us is the art-film equivalent of a high-speed chase. In Between Us, Tyler Wallace and Nicole Dill prove that you aren't invisible inside your car. In fact they've gone out of their way to make themselves as visible as possible. The performance concerns an ostensibly private conversation between two people, taking place in the comfort of a moving car. But as the couple travel, video of their dialogue is streamed live over the internet. When they reach their final destination, the conversation becomes larger than life as the car becomes a makeshift projector and the performers voices are amplified. It's a brash meditation on the fact that many of our private moments are only imagined.