image courtesy Cartune Xprez
  • image courtesy Cartune Xprez

Friday night at The Works, Peter Burr's hodgepodge "live television program" Special Effect hit the stage. Burr, moving eerily slowly in front of a large video screen, blended animation, music, and live performance in what was ostensibly an adaptation of (tribute to? comment on? explanation for? tangent from?) The Andrei Tarkovsky flick Stalker. I haven't seen Stalker, and since it's a three-hour Tarkovsky movie I'd need a considerable pile of uppers for, I decided I could probably figure out Special Effect without it.

WRONG. Roughly a third of the scenes appeared to be scenes from Stalker, repopulated by angular, multifaceted humanlike polygons, and voiced, possibly in real time, by Burr speaking backwards and reversing the sound. That's the only way I can make sense of the stilted, groan-tube sound of the dialog. That was unsettling, and I was engaged then, but without context it felt superficial, like watching a magician just to figure out how he does his tricks.

What I really got sucked into was the music. It's listed as original music by Lucky Dragons and Seabat, but the most fascinating segments were music made of Burr saying "inside" (I think) over and over. Regardless of the word spoken, the rhythms found in it changed and interchanged with the patterns of video special effects and noise on the screen, and it was the only time I felt fully immersed in the event of Burr's work.

Worth mentioning, I suppose, were the segments of the show that I guess were an old Soviet sci-fi cartoon, about a dude with a beard exploring a new planet, lusting after little purple aliens, and shooting the shit out of some aliens that mostly looked like dinosaurs. The dialog was all in (probably) Russian, but the subtitles were obviously rewritten for philosophy and comedy. The jokes ranged from tongue-in-cheek references to the Soviet ethos to humorless dick jokes. It served as a respite from the inscrutable majority of the show.