Director Neal Zero had clarified to me that the short films on his “Onyx Eye Films” DVD composed a sampler rather than a compilation. Therefore, it would be ideal for me to review each of the shorts separately, which I had every intention of doing….until I saw them. I decided to put three of the four films here because I had a near identical reaction to each of them, and I didn’t want my diction to become too redundant. Furthermore, I’ve found myself once again unable to rate these pieces, but not because I am torn between a two and a three. “Forty-Four” (2004), “America” (2005), and “f.[y].” (2004) do not get any stars because I wouldn’t want to give them half a star just because their subject matter isn’t my cup of tea.
Illuminated in red light, accompanied by a spoken-word audio track, and co-written by Nicole Michelle, “Forty-Four” is just under three minutes of a girl (Michelle) masturbating in and around a bathtub. While I can “tolerate” the occasional fully exposed torso or the semi-exposed buttocks that lurks about in mainstream cinema (and yet ironically heartily enjoy female nudity in reference to giallo or “American Psycho” violence), I tend to avoid the sight of unclothed people who are in the throes of self-reflexive activity. At the same time, I realize that there are people who very much enjoy this sort of imagery—I am not one of them. “America” technically should be a sigh of relief because there are no naked masters of their domains, but it is no less unsettling. Lasting two minutes and eighteen seconds, “America” is a photo-essay about crap. Literally.
Set to music by the Putzes (think a more urban version of G. Love and Special Sauce), this Zero experience is comprised of black and white still images of toilets and their stool contents. Having to look at your own waste is unappetizing enough. Imagine having a glance at other people’s business. The discrepancy between the “Jingle Bells” reinterpretation that you hear and the s**t that you see, and the closing credits’ reminder to “please remember to wash your hands” is supposed to be funny. In fact, had I not consumed a bowl of Szechuan noodles right before I saw “America,” I might have been rolling on the floor with laughter. But no. When “f.[y].” starts, any potential there was for me to enjoy or at least not get nauseated by the films is instantly smashed as I am confronted with two minutes and forty-eight seconds of grainy black and white footage of a man masturbating in close-up. Full sound effects are included too. I cannot be objective about this type of artistic _expression, so instead of telling you if you should or shouldn’t hop over to http://www.onyxeye.com to check out more of Zero’s work, I’ll just go wash out my mind with Listerine.