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SPECIAL SCREENINGS

'Half Japanese' Looks at a Fringe Band

March 28, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jeff Feuerzeig's "Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King" screens tonight through Wednesday at the Nuart at 7:30 p.m. followed by a live performance by singer Jad Fair and his band.

It's hard to tell how much of the 90-minute film is put on and how much of it is on the level--it has been called the "Spinal Tap" for the '90s. One thing is for sure: It allows its interviewees to drone on interminably about a band formed in 1977 by brothers Jad and David Fair in the living room of their family home in Uniontown, Md.

We're told that David dropped out early but that Jad has persisted on the fringes of the music business, even performing at nursing homes. "Half Japanese" is more fun to listen to than former Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker or Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller. (310) 478-6379.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Getty Center, will present tonight at 7 an extraordinary double feature, the 70mm director's cut of Jacques Tati's "Playtime" (1968) and Cuban filmmaker Tomas Gutierrez Alea's "Memories of Underdevelopment" (1968).

In the first, Tati brought back, after a 16-year absence, his beloved Mr. Hulot, the tall Frenchman--played by Tati--who lopes along at a slight forward tilt, forever running afoul of all manner of modern conveniences and gadgetry. This time he's job-hunting and gets caught up in a dehumanizing skyscraper city. This documentary-like account on 24 hours of life in a world of steel and glass is also an acute, surreal contemporary satire that emerges nevertheless as singularly affirmative.

Alea's film is a masterpiece of psychological drama, a stream-of-consciousness account, moving back and forth in time, of a handsome, wealthy 38-year-old Cuban's attempt to relate to Castro's revolution. As he confronts his "underdevelopment"--his atrophied haute bourgeoise emotions and character--the film, in turn, becomes an indictment of the evils of neocolonialism and the frivolity and corruption under Batista.

Alea also criticizes the isolation and ineffectuality of middle-class intellectuals whose embracing of European culture has cut them off from the needs of their own people. (310) 247-3000, Ext. 111.

Filmforum's "Scratching the Belly of the Beast: Cutting-Edge Media in Los Angeles, 1922-94" enters its final week at Hollywood Moguls, 1650 N. Hudson, Hollywood, with tonight's 8 p.m. program of subjective visions of mind and place, geography and landscape by local artists. Screening Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Central Library, 5th and Flower, is James Benning's challenging "North on Evers," in which we are deliberately forced to choose between concentrating on the rich flow of images depicting his cross-country motorcycle journey or his diary-like writing that travels across the bottom of the screen.

The retrospective ends Wednesday at the Hollywood Moguls with a closing-night party hosted by Kenneth Anger and featuring a screening of Alla Nazimova's 1922 "Salome," a bizarre, high-falutin adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play--with an aura of stylized, decadent chic and inspired by Aubrey Beardsley drawings--that nevertheless strikingly anticipates such experimental exotica as Anger's own shimmering "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" (1954), which also screens. Also on hand will be Cameron, who appeared in Anger's film, and Samson De Brier, who was in both films.

The series' final presentation is on Thursday at the Monica 4-Plex, where two major works of local independent cinema will screen, Pat O'Neill's stunning 1988 experiment exploring the interplay of nature and industry, "Water and Power" (3:30 p.m.), and Charles Burnett's 1977 "Killer of Sheep" (5 p.m.), a beautiful and anguished documentary-like account of several days in the bleak life of an L.A. slaughterhouse worker (Henry Gayle-Sanders, in a remarkable portrayal). (213) 663-9568.

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