Tender Muscles: Films by Charles Fairbanks | Chicago Reader

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75 minutes

Comedy, Experimental
These video works by artist Charles Fairbanks advance a sophisticated visual sensibility, cannily exploiting HD video's extreme depth of field to observe multiple planes of action within the same shot. They're also very funny—Fairbanks demonstrates genuine wit in his compositions, and his subjects tend to revel in their eccentricities to humorous effect. Four of the five shorts in this program are about wrestling, and it's to Fairbanks's credit that they never feel repetitive. Irma (2010), about former women's wrestling world champion Irma Gonzalez, wryly considers traditional gender roles in Mexico; Flexing Muscles (2012) profiles several oddball lucha libre wrestlers as a means of illustrating Mexican class relations; and The Men (2010) uses extreme close-ups to turn a wrestling bout into abstract art. The best piece, though, may be the ironically titled Pioneers (2009), a portrait of Fairbanks's industrialist father and New Ager mother that passes from quirky to absurd to sublime.

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