It was a beautiful day for a drive to Doylestown yesterday, where an “Independent Double Feature” screened at the County Theater, consisting of an odd pairing: the Brothers Quay short In Absentia and Chris Smith’s documentary Home Movie, accompanied by Jeff Krulik’s cult favorite Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
In Absentia is typical Brothers Quay fare, which is not to say it is formulaic or predictable. Their surreal images rely heavily on texture, which is often achieved through the use of meticulously animated light, focus, and camera movement, or by the compound use of a macro lens and grit-laden subject matter. This attention to texture has established a variety of moods throughout their films. In Absentia’s mood is uneasy; the film deals with an institutionalized woman endlessly writing letters to her husband which will never be delivered. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s soundtrack is deafening and terrifying.
Home Movie is Chris Smith’s followup to his award-winning American Movie. In it, we meet the inhabitants of five unique homes, each fascinating in his/her own right, with the possible exception of the reclusive California couple who transformed their home into a jungle gym for their cats. What’s really commendable about Smith’s work is how lovingly he portrays his subjects, whom his films pay tribute to when they could probably be more easily ridiculed.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot, on the other hand, makes little effort to avoid humor at the expense of its subject, but one can hardly be blamed for making a joke of tailgating headbangers, since they do it so well all by themselves.