Curt McDowell at Anthology
But much of the avant-garde cinema experience is a question of orienting oneself to different rhythms. And after all, the friend in Confessions says what's right about McDowell is just about everything else. So once I reoriented myself to his intensity, just about everything else in the program was oh so right including Taboo, a film which deserves that hoary old avant-garde descriptor "surreal" (I heard it applied recently to The Hart of London...nope!).
In several public bathrooms, McDowell had come across some odd graffiti which pointed to a family melodrama ripe for McDowellfication, hence Taboo. The graffiti ("Abner slapped hard like blue magic") repeats like an idée fixe throughout the film, especially recited by a beautiful trick named Fahed Martin. So do shots of the trick, sitting shirtless or, most disturbingly, tied up in a shower. Interspersed between all of this are what one can assume are attempts to dramatize the Abner family conflict and it all unfolds if not like a dream than an itchy self-examination.
Still, best in show was Boggy Depot (1973, 17 min.), easily the best American musical of the 1970s. Seriously. I'm not sure how a set of songs about hypnotizing George Kuchar could be anything less than scintillating. There's even an incredible cross-cut ensemble number that beats West Side Story's "Tonight." I adored every nanosecond.
For more, check out Whit Strub here and Michael Guillen here.
Here's Melinda McDowell introducing the screenings.