By Rogan Marshall | December 24, 2003

“Home Movies” is an accurate title for this collection of three shorts, insofar as the phrase pinpoints its relevance to the viewer. In fact, most home movies are more resonant and textured than this material.

The first piece, “Self Portrait,” is a black and white, silent and musicless, sixteen millimeter critter that’ll give you flashbacks, if you were ever traumatized by a film class. This short is also accurately titled, if Peter Kirby is a boring looking guy who dawdles over his morning toiletry and then wanders aimlessly through city streets, idly imagining himself into a metaphorical spooky forest. Though it’s not more than fifteen minutes long, “Self Portrait” made me feel like a bug on a pin.

The second piece, obscurely entitled “The Hunter,” boasts color and sound, renovations unaccompanied by improvements in any other sense. It begins with a long series of random, sluggishly edited shots of various animals, among them squirrels, turtles, and deer, a meaningless unstructured montage which gave rise to the note, “Am I already asleep?” Next we see some skateboarding footage, sort of, though whoever is running camera doesn’t seem to grasp that someone performing a jumpup kind of stunt on a board should land within frame. Then we get a long series of handheld shots, where the guy holding the camera is standing in the middle of a street, and walks over to a street sign, and points the camera at it. The shot of the sign holds for a long moment, and then the editor cuts to another shot, where the guy is walking down another street, approaching another street sign. This can’t have gone on for more than a few minutes, but I swear, it felt like hours; it reminded me of the first time I took acid – I kept glancing at my watch, and thinking, it’s only been thirty seconds?

The third and final nail in the coffin the tape I’m writing about now resides in is a documentary chronicling the history of taxicab service in San Francisco, entitled expectably enough “San Francisco Taxicab.” This unnecessary business goes on for, get this, nearly an hour. Maybe Kirby was thinking that that’s how long boring documentaries made almost entirely from archival stills go on, on The History Channel, but on The History Channel, there’s music in the background, instead of endless distracting tape hiss, and the guy doing the voiceover doesn’t keep having problems mispronouncing words like prospective, aforementioned, and heinous (say it with me: “hee-nee-us”). Mostly it’s even worse than that, because mostly what you see is stationary closeups of old newspaper articles, while the guy sort of reads you summarized versions of them.

The wall behind my TV was considerably more interesting than what was on it throughout the duration of this tape, a wall which bears no posters. What is Mr. Kirby’s intent? What does he tell his friends, when he makes them watch this stuff? What do they say to him? Do they understand, or encourage this? Who for god’s sake advised him to send this out for review? I don’t know. I kind of hope I never know. He wasn’t thinking straight the day he decided to show this work around, work which is, to real filmmaking, what a toddler’s reckless plunge across a living room floor is to the efforts of an Olympic sprinter.

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