Matt McCormick's Peripheral Produce screening series began in 1996 in a string of warehouses and punk clubs, exhibiting work from Portland's underground film and video artists. The series quickly caught on as a place not for taxing avant-garde fare, but a variety of hilarious and fascinating work that challenged our narrow vision of what movies can be.
Eight years later, McCormick's series is no more, replaced by the annual Portland Experimental and Documentary (better known as "PDX") Film Festival--which, incidentally, returns April 15-18. As such, the new Peripheral Produce All Time Greatest Hits DVD makes not only a treasured time capsule, but also a thoroughly entertaining hour of viewing.
The DVD begins with Getting Stronger Every Day by Portland's Miranda July, whom Peripheral Produce helped blossom into a bona fide international art star. Unnerving and surreal, Getting Stronger concerns two boys who are taken from their homes and cannot integrate back into them upon return. Drastically changing course, Jim Finn's uproarious Wustenspringmaus is a brief tome about the common gerbil, told with song and subtitles and tongue placed firmly in cheek.
McCormick's own Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal may be the most acclaimed film in the collection. A hit at numerous film festivals, including Sundance and Rotterdam, its comparison of painted-over graffiti splotches seen on the sides of buildings to the paintings of Mark Rothko and other abstractionists is at once a perceptive art-world parody and a sincere reminder of everyday urban beauty we take for granted.
Without question, the funniest work on the Produce DVD is Stuffing by then-Chicago and now L.A.-based duo Animal Charm, who manipulate nature videos to make various monkeys look like Fred Astaire. Naomi Uman's Removed cleverly eliminates the naked women from old porn films, while Bryan Boyce's Election Collectibles juxtaposes the Home Shopping Channel with the 2000 Presidential Election.
Portland's Vanessa Renwick is represented with Crowdog, an account of her life-shaping hitchhiking trip. San Francisco filmmaker Sam Green, whose Weather Underground was just nominated for an Oscar, presents N Judah 5:30, a haunting short capturing unwitting subway riders by the light of creepy green fluorescent lamps. And Buffalo Common is one of several fascinating travelogues by jovial, intellectual nomad Bill Brown.
You won't find a better collection of experimental film anywhere in the world. Thank goodness we have McCormick in our own back yard.
Order the DVD and learn more about the PDX Film Festival at www.rodeofilmco.com/peripheralproduce