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TV REVIEW : 'Screen Play' Stands Out Among Trio on 'Animations'


Tonight's installment of "Alive TV," "More Not-for-Saturday-Morning Animations" (at 10:30 on KCET-TV Channel 28), presents three films by independent artists who work outside the studio system. Independent animation is rarely shown on mainstream television, so it's regrettable that the producers didn't choose films of equal quality.

Barry Purves' exquisite, Academy Award-nominated "Screen Play" demonstrates both a mastery of stop-motion techniques and an understanding of Japanese theater.

A romantic tragedy unfolds as three-dimensional puppets enact a story, assisted by a narrator who also gives his speeches in sign language. The constantly shifting screens in the background provide two-dimensional accents. Although American viewers have complained the finale seems needlessly tragic, "Screen Play" remains faithful to its roots in Kabuki.

The gap in quality that separates "Screen Play" from the other films reveals the difference between artistry and artsiness.

For "Pharaoh's Belt: Cake Excerpt," Lewis Klahr cut up print ads from the 1950s and '60s to "explore themes of childhood, time and memory."

The film amounts to little more than a series of random collages that lacks the panache of its obvious model, Frank Mouris' Oscar-winning "Frank Film."

Jeffrey Noyes Scher draws over clips of live action with pencil, watercolors, etc., in "Milk of Amnesia." Set to a languid Brazilian song, this montage of offbeat scenes looks surprisingly conventional, probably because the technique has been used so often since the "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" sequence in "Yellow Submarine."

Scher and Klahr don't seem to understand the difference between stringing together odd visuals and presenting information effectively.

Fans of high-quality animation will want to set their VCRs to tape "Screen Play," which is about 11 minutes long; after that, they can turn the machine off.

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