Photograph by Adriene Jenik
Night Light: 'SPECFLIC 2.0' (in an earlier incarnation) turns buildings into giant screens.
Doin' the Techno-Reel
One film critic's ramble through ZeroOne night on the town
By Richard von Busack
THE SQUIRREL was cute. No sign of the smog-tortured pigeons or the 99 luft balloons. Did see San Jose City Hall with the light projection on it, making our Reichstag Jr. look like one of those balls made of recycled tutti-frutti vinyl they used to sell at Third World grocery stores. The sight is all the more plaintive, what with that cluster of wicked steel needles ready to pop City Hall if it starts rolling.
The squirrel was buff—he showed off his biceps as he handed out temporary tattoos. The squirrel was tender—he handed out freezer pops from a stump-shaped cooler. Suffering as it does from being named after something from The Matrix, ZeroOne still gets a huge boost from the free ice cream factor. You go, squirrel.
Here we are at the former Studio Theater (sob, Carnosaur, Beyond the Valley of the Ultravixens), rejiggered to show movies once again. Tonight is "La Repetition Generale" of Michael Lew's Junkyard of Dreams with live music by a quartet of sax, drums, guitar and bass. This is a live remixing of images from films about Hollywood—sort of a cultural meditation on the dreams and realities of the era.
Lew's collage includes immediately identifiable clips of George Kennedy tottering on a ledge during Earthquake and Naomi Watts' gaping innocent girl in Mulholland Dr. as well as the car-crash sequence from David Lynch's film and the arrival at the Cafe Silencio. Here's a row of palm trees filched from, I think, Slums of Beverly Hills. And, lo, a grabbed image of one of Sergio Leone's Westerns as projected at an outdoor movie in the park, somewhere in east Hollywood.
Wobbly guitar chords hang in the stifling air of the Glo. At last, the air conditioning comes on, and Lew gets to the heart of the matter. He mixes in documentary footage of the homeless and L.A. immigration protests with these feature-film snippets. Ah, so: While some lucky Hollywood denizens smile blondely at the Paramount gates, the peasants must sleep on bus benches. Now he rewinds the building implosions from Koyaanisqatsi; the Pruitt-Igoe projects in St. Louis rise from its dust—then, a dying grunion. It didn't even equal the sum of its parts.
"I didn't walk out—I went home to think how heavy it was."
San Pedro Square, 8:15pm
Galaxy Quest (1999) is playing, so to speak, on the fringe of the festival at San Pedro Square. Eschewing Junkyard of Dreams' appropriated image of an alfresco movie for a real one, I stop for a couple of free reels and a round at the cafe tables at the Tied House.
Far be it from me to get into any Chuck-Klosterman-cum-Dave-Hickey rant about the genius of free-market-sponsored art vs. the more elevated Lew show. However, GQ director Dean Parisot's meditations on the difference between the actor's persona and the actor himself could be teased into anyone's essay. There was as much about the difference between "to be" and "to seem" as there was at Junkyard of Dreams. I'm no blogging pigeon, but the air sure seemed fresher outside. And the beer, as always, helped.
MLK Library, 9:30pm
A wino emerges from the dank boomtown shadows. He weaves through the maze of wooden walkways around construction sites, watching his step past the street crowds of bully boys, bouncers and cops—all that humanity that makes our favorite city so much like Potterville. Rising up into the night: his refuge, the public library.
What's this! Lit up on the windows, a colossal Oz head of a woman, made up in tin-woodsman metallic powder, a Dynel wig and sunglasses with snowy mountains printed on the lenses. These last—the "specs" of SPECFLIC 2.0—remind our Uncle Thirsty of the painted Alps on the old Busch beer can.
The great head, a self-declared "InfoSpherean" of 2030, describes archaic objects called books, an obsolete format devoured by plagues of silverfish in 2012. Like the animated Dr. Know in A.I., "she" answers questions from the crowd, but only for those with proper information licenses.
Lines of library discarded paperbacks (a lot of Frederick Forsyth, mostly) lie on the sidewalk, forming arrows. These signposts lead our hypothetical dipso into the SJSU courtyard, where he can enjoy the full moon, the sinister iron donging of the campus bell and a grove of tiki-bar-worthy timber bamboo.
Here roosts a large flock of culture vultures, milling in front of a rack of digital screens offering up well-worn memes like "God Is Dog Spelled Backwards" and "Evol Love." Neither phrase is as unnerving as the seat-of-the-pants motto on a nearby girl. If her trousers speak the truth, her ass belongs to someone called Pink.
Above the courtyard, 150 feet up, is projected a two-sided film of the actress Alison Janney (The West Wing). Chosen because of her matchless air of severity and pensiveness to play a librarian, Janney strides through the stacks looking for a book.
A sense of post-book future is already essential to experiencing this, my favorite building in Santa Clara County. Once you elevate past the floors with the grinding students pummeling their laptops, you ascend to the silence and dust of the top floors of this magnificent Babel tower, with its endless row of unread books. So performance artist Adriene Jenik created a piece appropriate for the site, the city and the courtyard itself. Four stars, thumb's up, thanks Mr. Squirrel!
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