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New York Underground Film Festival Report: Natural High (Shorts Program)

New York Underground Film Festival Report: Natural High (Shorts Program)

Robert Todd’s Evergreen

Before it’s too late, I’d like to call attention to the New York Underground Film Festival’s 1:30pm, Sunday screening of the shorts program Natural High. As the title hints, the films contained therein are thematically linked by their cinematic/videomatic interpretations and modulations of the natural world. In Jason Livingston’s July Fix a 16mm camera mimics the movement of a bee vis-a-vis its desired flowers, bobbing to and fro as the soundtrack likewise fades abruptly in and out to anxious, unnerving effect. Robert Todd’s Evergreen is an extended, medium-paced montage of urban nature portraits that accumulate and rhyme in the fashion of Bruce Baillie, though Todd’s work may be even more subtly powerful. A more mythic, iconic journey takes place in John Standiford’s Fading Star, a just-a-bit-too-long Lewis Klahr-style animation of pop culture cut-outs and found sound that has a cowboy embarking on a railroad voyage through the history of America and its physical and psychic landscapes. My personal favorite of the program, and maybe of the festival (of what I’ve seen), however, might be Michael Robinson’s The General Returns from One Place to Another, an unclassifiable assault on Thoreauvian transcendentalism. Combining distant sounds of gunshots, blurred, ghostly 16mm-to-video images of rustic scenery and a couple of dazed rural explorers, and a reconsideration of the evil roots of beauty (both in art and nature) in some terrifically worded subtitles, among a few other clashing elements, The General disturbs the idealization of nature to arrive at an unsettled juncture between man and the world.

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