FilmForum will present three early films by Beth B and Scott B,, New York independent filmmakers who first came to attention in the late '70s with their stylish, darkly amusing punk/new wave movies. The screening is tonight at 8 at Hollywood Moguls, 1650 Hudson Ave. in Hollywood.
As clearly revealed in the three films screening tonight, the Bs, for all their dry humor, have always been seriously concerned with the withering of freedom in what they perceive to be an increasingly Orwellian universe.
Indeed, the inspiration for their 25-minute "Black Box" reportedly was "the refrigerator," a 5-by-5 cube lined with sheet metal and containing heating and cooling elements and wired for screeching sound, which Amnesty International has claimed were manufactured in Houston for use as torture devices in Latin American dictatorships.
In the 1978 film, a blond, All-American-looking young man (Bob Mason) is without rational explanation kidnaped, flogged (by ferocious singer Lydia Lunch, a B regular) and stuck inside "the refrigerator." In the 15 years since the film was made we've been bombarded by far more violent images; what remains provocative and disturbing is how the Bs have managed to aestheticize torture and thereby to make it bearable to watch.
The 80-minute 1980 "The Trap Door" begins with a young man (John Ahearn) being fired for having been a few minutes late several times in the course of a year in a hearing carried out by individuals who could pass for devout minions of Big Brother; after a comically bizarre job-hunting ordeal, Ahearn winds up on the couch of the late Jack Smith's crazy psychiatrist who, nonetheless, lets loose with a perfectly cogent protest of the ruthless conformity demanded by a society dominated by a military-industrial complex.
"Trap Door," which has a funky Warholian atmosphere but a great deal more economy and pace, is not without laughs--e.g., the ineffably campy Smith tries to hypnotize Ahearn with "the Maria Montez jewel."
The 15-minute "Letters to Dad" (1979) is composed of individuals reading portions of actual letters written to the Rev. Jim Jones in Johnstown, Guyana, in 1978; not surprisingly, they reveal the thoughts of a group of unstable individuals craving for the direction of a virtual dictator for whom they are prepared to die. Scott B will be present to introduce the films.
Information: (213) 663-9568.
A Canadian Story: Screening tonight in the American Film Institute's outstanding "Americas Film Festival," which continues through Thursday at the Monica 4-Plex, is a charming if overlong Canadian film, Giles Walker's "Ordinary Magic," in which a 15-year-old (Ryan Reynolds) raised in India by his widowed father, comes to a small Canadian town after his father dies to live with his aunt (Glenne Headly), who's as much at a crossroads in her life as her nephew. The climactic incident that bonds the two is credible but too drawn out. Paul Anka has a nifty cameo as a slick resort development promoter.
Among the films screening this weekend in the UCLA Film Archive's "Classic Mexican Cinema" at UCLA's Melnitz Theater in a tribute to the legendary actor/director Emilio Fernandez are "Flor Silvestre" ("Wildflower") (1943), screening Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and "Rio Escondido" ("Hidden River") (1974), screening Sunday at 7 p.m.
The first, which brought together Fernandez with writer Mauricio Magdaleno, composer Francisco Dominguez and the great cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, launched the Golden Era of Mexican cinema in the '40s with the filmmakers' poetic celebrations of Mexican history and culture. "Flor Silvestre" tells of a marriage between a powerful landowner's son (Pedro Armendariz) and a beautiful peasant (Dolores Del Rio) that begins in the bloody and tragic aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. Although set in the present, "Hidden River," which reflects the fervent nationalist spirit of the late '40s, has the look and feel of a John Ford Western as a determined teacher (Maria Felix, today the fiery doyenne of the Mexican cinema) defies the corrupt rule of a small-town despot (Carlos Lopez Moctezuma).
Information: (310) 206-FILM.