KCET’s third year of short works by mostly local filmmakers, videographers and experimentalists gives them three hours, which is much too long to watch a “stream of images and sounds as diverse as the cultural life of Los Angeles,” as the hype reads. In the world of communications, too many of the artists indulge in technique, not style or content; that’s not communicating.
Experimental filmmaking has long been an important step in film and videotape development; that’s how the art of film started.
These samples from nearly 30 years of material sometimes enlighten, and Walter Moseley’s readings from his “Black Betty,” plus printed inserts of the work, both punctuate and help tie the production together.
Particularly worthy opuses include Taylor Hackford and Richard Davies’ fragmented 1974 study of poet Charles Bukowski; Martha Chono-Helsley’s look at Asian generational gaps in last year’s “30 Miles from J-Town”; Peter Kirby’s essay on the great Johnny Otis, who talks freely of his art and family, and shares memories about Little Esther, T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner, who appear in archival footage; Isaac Mizrahi and Ruben Martinez’s stirring account of “Los Tigres del Norte,” with its leader, Mexican-born Jorge Hernandez trading experiences with Martinez, who offers a sensible opinion on the mix of cultures.
These worthies have been tossed into a stew of uncommanding, impressionistic exercises, indulgent, impressionistic cuts or tiresome images spinning out sophomoric cynicism.
Bits on children communicat-ing via computers, montages thrust up without timing, or works such as Bill Viola’s 1983 “Anthem,” which bursts with unfulfilled possibilities, are wearying; Joy Silverman’s “Utopia,” in which two women talk about communicating without demonstrating the word, should lose viewers who are seeking adventure and solid experiences in experimental works.
The third hour brings on even heavier numbers with Dick Hebdige’s “Rambling Man” rambling on about earthquakes and cracked mirrors. Ed. de la Torre’s “Los Angeles” is another tedious assertion.
But the final piece, the 1963 “By the Sea” by Robert Abel and Patrick O’Neill , rings the bell. As the filmmakers gaze around deserted, black-and-white aspects of Santa Monica beach, sounds of people infiltrate, sand athletes gleam, people sunbathe and compete, and the essay builds until the lens filters begin sorting out the living and all fades away.
“By the Sea,” touched with humor, rhythm, tonality, and accomplishment, plays like dessert.
Exec producer Jacqueline Kain, head of programming for KCET, created the uneven program. The last two were only an hour; that’s plenty — particularly preceding a weekend pledge period when the pubcaster’s trying to shake down would-be members’ moola.