In “Cedar Bar,” painter and avant-garde filmmaker Alfred Leslie (co-director of the Beat manifesto “Pull My Daisy”) sends a wildly contrasting barrage of pop culture images, culled from Hollywood films, TV shows, newsreels and porn flicks, jostling each other across the screen. Meanwhile, on the soundtrack, actors playing various famous Abstract Expressionist painters complain about art and its place in the world. This aesthetic shoptalk is shrill and difficult to follow, rendering the sound/image setup hit-and-miss, and leaving connections between, say, exploding subway cars and Jackson Pollack’s heritage ambiguous. Experimental film and museum settings seem a likely next stop.
Leslie starts with a recently taped read-through of a theater exercise he wrote in 1952, loosely based on drunken all-night conversations between Abstract Expressionists and critic Clement Greenberg at their favorite Greenwich Village watering hole. Free-associative leaps to the pop images that overlay the text vary from literal (the drunk-sounding conversation fronted by visuals from “The Lost Weekend”) to noir tone poems that symbolize big-city isolation. Actors playing Expressionists burst into song, and reaction shots of celebrities attending an Academy Awards ceremony frequently appear, as do graphic closeups of anonymous genitalia.