Sapphire and the Old World | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sapphire and the Old World 

The three videos on this program all deal with the representation of women, but in very different ways. Old Wordly, by Leslie Thornton and Anouk de Clercq, consists of 50s girlie films--fully clothed women doing exotic dances--presented with only a little reediting. Seeing them back-to-back focuses one's attention not only on the way they depict women as objects of desire but also on their repetitive, almost hypnotic rhythms, underlined by the irritating techno-music sound track. The video may critique these films, but it also aestheticizes them. Leah Gilliam's Sapphire and the Slave Girl has an interesting pastiche form that never quite comes together, but the somewhat similar collage of Elisabeth Subrin's Swallow is genuinely moving. Through eight different film and video formats--everything from 35-millimeter film to an inexpensive, low-resolution video system called Pixelvision--Swallow displays images that Subrin shot and also ones borrowed from mass media to depict a young woman's battle with anorexia. The film's diverse narrative threads are haunted by an underlying theme of failure, the inability to live comfortably in one's body or the world. The collage form and multiple formats become metaphors for the protagonist's confusions, and the work's constant visual shifts create an emotional whirlwind--as embodied in a shot in which a child's room suddenly has its contents sucked out, toys flying through the air as if in a tornado, the world now utterly centerless. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday, May 31, 8:00, 384-5533. --Fred Camper

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