The Best of the New York Underground
1994 Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 29, 1994
How a film with this title managed to leave out such cinema of transgression auteurs as Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch, and Clint Ruin is beyond me, and, if you're going to use this to measure the quality of the current NYC underground film scene, you're bound (and gagged) to come up disappointed. Consisting of six short films ranging from the competent to the abysmal, this compilation starts off with a bang and quickly fizzles away (not unlike NYC's current mayor). Frank Sebastiano's Spring Break opens the film, giving us a pair of Jersey schnooks intent on killing the guy who slept with one of their girlfriends over spring break. Beavis and Butt-head Come to Life would have been a more apt title, but Sebastiano keeps this 10-minute short on the far side of MTV hell by playing it deadpan and light. Basically just a series of one-off gags strung together between blackouts, it's still hilarious just watching this duo trying to muddle their way through the various problems they encounter on their way to their rendezvous with mediocrity. Director Mike King gives us a telling though fairly predictable documentary called Doper, which follows a well-liked, white trash suburbanite through the course of several days, from his stoner-chic apartment to his factory job (where he is loved and respected by his co-workers, who know nothing of his sideline in cannabis distribution techniques). Eugene Salandra's Faerie Film is an animated short focusing on the NYC gay rights group The Radical Faeries. Salandra uses voiceovers from actual Rad Faeries to discuss the relevance of the group to the NYC gay circuit. His animation is above par, very fluid and occasionally hilarious, but, although the film is marginally enlightening, there's not much else here. Three other, lesser shorts round out the film -- Joshua Wintringham's Pleasant Hill, USA, a portrait of a violent sociopath; Peter Sarkisian's Detritus about an addict battling hallucinations; and Helen Stickler's Queen Mercy, which visits a peep show. But again, if this is the state of NYC underground filmmaking, I'm glad I live in Texas.