By Merle Bertrand | January 10, 2000

I get really irritated by compilation tapes comprised of short films that have no business being compiled together. Thankfully, that’s not the case in this decade’s worth of work from Blessed Elyssium Productions’ Lisa Hammer. Ranging from 1987 – 1996, this collection of six shorts shares a number of common traits. They’re all shot in a flickering, scratchy black and white style reminiscent of 1920’s cinema, they’re all essentially silent films, and they’re all, well, pretty weird. Among the highlights are “Adieux, Dames,” a surreal, voyeuristic encounter of what appears to be a woman’s suicide dance, and the bizarre, indescribably hallucinogenic “(The Elaborate) Empire of Ache.” The centerpiece of the collection, however, is undoubtedly “Jorinda and Joringel,” a Brothers Grimm fable adapted as a sexually charged gothic fantasy about a handsome prince’s struggle to rescue his betrothed from the clutches of an evil witch. Come to think of it, you could add “sexually charged gothic fantasy” to the list of constants linking these films. However, not everything is quite so heavy. “Blessed Follies,” which opens the tape, features a collection of comely flappers intercut with title cards listing the “theater rules” while “Naughty PSA,” bookending the collection, provides some stern but tongue-in-cheek S&M-laced punishment to those patrons who didn’t heed those opening rules. Very heavy on exotic and outrageous imagery and short on narrative cohesiveness, these odd and disturbing live action films would be right at home in the creepy animated world of the Brothers Quay. Not my cup of tea, exactly, but uniquely intriguing, nonetheless.

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