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Invoking Environments on State Streets December 18, 2005

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.
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The air was cold and still in the last weekend before christmas would pass. All across town locals lined the streets only to park in shopping lots. The heavy musk of sweat and cash filled the gassy air, as panic ridden faces choked on commerce. The resulting debt sent them home early, though the fighting over the latest electronic toys built up some fierce appetite at the dinner table. My own stomach, full with gyro grease and diet tonic, sat neatly until a ride could be arranged.
My courier arrived promptly from his own feast, his debutante in tow for the ride. Shaking from my video monitor reviewing survailance footage of my own travails, we set off further into the accidental metropilis. After picking the spot for our own four-wheeled death carriage (directly in front of the truck with the “My President is Charleton Heston” bumper sticker on the front bumper), we made our way into the crowded house.
I found myself surrrounded by slackers and accidental hipsters from around the bi-state area of similar age or social disposition. The carpet was plush, as if it had just replaced, in the enlongated front room that stood open and largely devoid of furnishment (save a concession table). All the young people around me seemed cheerful yet inclusive, at least towards the stranger who managed to stumble accross their gathering, so I latched on to the two who took me along for the ride and the other who had invited us. Every one of them was so starkly sober, heightening their awareness of myself (the stranger) who had inexplicably come to be a parasite on their social event. There the stage was set, with a enourmous curtain running the height and length of the wall, for projecting electronicly a series of homebrew short films and videos.
As a professional I watched the videos with a keen and critical eye, searching for high concepts in the kind of opportunity for art over profit this kind of forum might provide. Save some cheap effects of editing, the best efforts would run without the applause of the very people who knew its creators. No, the low comedy won out again. Surely I was being an elitist, even as I laughed with them, but the jokes always ran too long. These people came to share laughs with the people they already know damnit, not to muse on a director’s creative reflection on the industrialized human condition.
Low budget does not necessarily mean low quality, if only for the fact that obivously had high technology to edit it together. No, it doesn’t take a high tech 1000-watt robotic controlled light to improve the tone and constrast on video – it usually takes a piece of posterboard to bounce light onto the subject and a minute to zoom in on a piece of white paper to get rid of video low-light grain. But don’t try explaining this to them without expecting the recognizing frown towards the elitist stranger with a few free tips.
On break between presentations I found myself the lone smoker outside, while my friends stayed inside to socialize with former co-workers and consorts. After the hounds chased me back inside to the safety of their home, I met the shocked faces expecting an intruder. As short-term recognition set in, they could see that I was a passive intruder instead of a breaking and entering report. No need for further engagement until a post-film assesment of my fitness within their social circle.
We set in for another marathon, named something like “The whistling ninja who could kill”. It wore on and on well past what could have a been a usual joke on the kung-fu genre. No, it had to become a detective story first before revealing the hidden gems of sketch that in no real way furthered the plot. As the ninja moved about town for 5 minute segments of multiple street attacks in between scenes, I watched something like 85 different killings with a plastic katana but without any of the titilating displays of gore or morbid remorse on the victims faces after the attack. It was also plaged by eraticly planned night-time public shoot schedules. Disguised as a deeply interwoven plot with a central conflict of a non-selective ninja murderer on the loose, it occured to me that some things are just beyond the scope of amateurs. Namely, the narative tie-ins with the charecters was compesentory for a shortage of actors, one of whom was killed at least 3 different times. But I’m not much of a filmmaker as much as I’m an appearnt film critic, so make of this what you will. All I do is study this at a college nearby.
Was I becoming too critical to not hold at a distance despite holding on my tongue where I could? Were my expectations too high in anticipation of the event of cinematic setting? Was I overqualified for an amateur night, where even I found space to laugh? Does the fact that I am asking these questions establish that I believe they are true?
Any way you look at it, I found space to have an interesting evening. The sober bohemia in the run down neighborhoods of St. Louis showed promise if not technical ability. There creative talents were original, but not applied effectively. My speculative ability might have been slipping, as I walked away hopeful for a scene I wouldn’t bother taking part in; if only because I weren’t invited.

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