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Chicago Underground Film Festival

The fifth annual Chicago Underground Film Festival runs Tuesday through next Sunday, August 11 through 16, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets for all programs are $6, except for the screening at 7 on Tuesday, which is $15 and includes admission to the opening-night party. A $50 pass will admit you to all festival screenings and events; a $25 pass will admit you to five regular programs. For more information call 773-866-8660.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11

Men Cry Bullets

See Critic's Choice. (7:00 and 9:00)

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12

Six for the Road

Half a dozen shorts: Tommy Burg's Super-8 The Final Product and, on video, Jeffrey Williams's Taxi, Bob Sabiston and Tommy Pallotta's animated Roadhead, Jake Austen's Southside Signs, Willie Laszlo's Boogie Man, and Tom Palazzolo's Down Clark Street. (5:30)

Dysfunctional Relationships

Five shorts: Stefan Eling's animated Killing Heinz, Marjore Kaye's God Says So, Tara Spartz's Balls Out!, Matthew T.'s Automaton, and Ricardo Villegas's Ten Thousand Buddhas. (6:00)

Year of the Pig

Greg McKean and Dan Sykes directed this documentary video, a political satire drawn from their experiences in Cambodia. (7:15)

Purgatory County

George Ratliff's 1997 feature is described as a noir western about "prophecy, matricide, and the economics of emu ranching." Set in a small Texas town, the film concerns an ineffectual sheriff, his crazy brother, and their irascible, bedridden mother. (7:45)

Herd Mentality

A documentary video by Mark Hejnar about the Chicago noise band Pile of Cows between 1982 and 1993. On the same program, short videos by Hejnar, Usama Alshaibi, Huck Botko, Anie "Super-8" Stanley and Patty Chang, and Janene Higgins. (9:00)

Home Is Where the (Bloody) Heart Is

Four short works: Erik Deutschman's Split, Dietmar Post's Cloven Hoofed, Jim Turner's Meat, and Douglas Buck's Home. (9:30)

Aardvark

A "mockumentary" video by Ken Hegan about two actors trying to stage a play. On the same program, short works by Bob Stewart, Shawn Durr, and Will Keenan. (10:45)

Cinematic Sideshow

This program of short films contains SF, sex, and at least two wheelchairs. Patrick Harrison's Freeworld is set in 2023 in the United States of North America, where a pair of secret police track a renegade robot. In Kitty Punch by Andrew J. Schlussel, a vulnerable guy is left alone with his girlfriend's cat. Nick Zedd describes his Why Do You Exist? as a "pulse-pounding pandemonium of palpitating pulchritude." In David Blood's Headless at the Fair, a boy in a wheelchair goes on an outing with two naive girls. And in Dan Dinello, Paul Dinello, and Mitch Rouse's Wheels of Fury, a widow in a wheelchair crosses the line between revenge and romance. (11:00)

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13

After School Acid Therapy

Short works by Matt Kovalakides, Tennessee Reid Norton, Rick Trembles, Todd Lincoln, Alvin Ecarma, Keith Schofield, Michael Kang, Eric Jewell, and Tony Nittoli. (5:30)

Heavy Black Smoke Stack

This hour-long film by Jim Mazzullo begins with a wholesome boy-meets-girl segment, but soon the two become entwined with a couple called Trance and Estrogen, their drug-fueled parties, and their life of crime (Trance likes to rob stores, tie up the male clerks, and smooch with them). The couples' soft-core sex scenes have some energy, but the film is a pastiche of elements--poetic narration, self-consciously flat acting, unimaginative camera work--that never really come together. Even quirkier is Amy Talkington's short Number One Fan, in which a teenager who's left home after a fight with mom "about my hair" is picked up by an unsavory threesome, one of whom stages murder scenes to photograph. Once again, the story is more inventive than the camera work or editing. On the same program, Gary Burns's short film Fuck Coke. (FC) (6:00)

The Last Broadcast

Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos directed this fiction film about a cable-access show and a grisly murder. (7:15)

Little Shots of Happiness

Leaving her husband, Frances (Bonnie Dickenson) brings a small suitcase along to her job at a collection agency. Each day she pulls out another sexy outfit, poses in front of the bathroom mirror (and producer-writer-director-cinematographer Todd Verow's camera), and goes out to drink and befriend strangers--mainly so she can find somewhere to spend the night. There's something exciting about the exploitation suggested by a barroom scene in which you'd swear the actors are really getting smashed. But Frances's dread of going home is the motivation for a tiresome odyssey that's dominated by shots of Dickenson's feet in high heels--and the inevitable fishnet stockings (1997). (LA) On the same program, The Bystander From Hell, directed by Matthew Harrison and written by Christopher Grimm, who plays the title character. (7:45)

God, Gas, or Grass

A mixed bag of videos that satirize mass-media imagery. Stuffing, Slow Gin Soul Stallion, Lightfoot Fever, and Working Together, all by the duo who call themselves Animal Charm, are humorously demented while at the same time analyzing the relationship between viewer and image with a subtlety lacking in some of the other works. Luke Fannin's Puberty: Benji's Special Time is shot in the sanitized style of 50s instructional films, though its subject (young Benji's troubling hard-ons) effectively underlines their sterility. Bryan Boyce's A Slice of Heaven, a cute send-up of a televangelist, uses video effects to distort its subject's face. But Philip Pelletier's New Testament, in which Jesus steps out of a Last Supper tableau to advertise a wine cooler, is annoyingly trite; real TV commercials are far more insidious. Harry McCoy's Gas Huffin' Bad Gals, about three busty women who sniff gas and kill men, rips off Russ Meyer and film noir; it also resembles Jennifer Reeder's White Trash Girl, but with none of Reeder's first-person authenticity--this one is just plain loud. (FC) On the same program, Somebody Goofed by Rodney Ascher and Syd Garon. (9:00)

Modulations

A feature-length 1997 documentary by Iara Lee about the history of electronic music. On the same program, Jeff Scher's experimental short film Yours. (9:30)

Juicy Danger Meets Burning Man

A video documentary by David Vaisbord about the anarchic Juicy Danger Show's performance at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. On the same program, short works by David Foss, John Lechago, Adrian Diamond, and Reynold Reynolds. (10:45)

Me and Will

Melissa Behr and Sherrie Rose directed and star in this biker movie about two women who meet in rehab and go looking for Peter Fonda's bike from Easy Rider. With Patrick Dempsey, Seymour Cassel, M. Emmet Walsh, Traci Lords, and a musical performance by Keanu Reeves's band Dogstar. (11:00)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Critic's Choice/ Men Cry Bullets.

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