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By Rogan Marshall | February 6, 2004

These two short films came to me on one tape. Their common point seems to be collaboration-prone writer/director Jeremiah Zagar; they also have in common that they are touched, lightly but clearly, by genius (a word I don’t use casually). 

“The Unbelievable Truth” is a prettily shot and perfectly edited story about the lifelong development of its main character’s work in photography, and the transgressive subject matter which increasingly fascinates him – surgery, the nude, the corpse. This film evades facile description; it is also as tightly constructed and effective a ten minutes as I’ve seen in months. The filmmakers examine, in a unique, advanced fashion, the very nature of obsession, epiphany, and the possibly perverse artistic impulse toward the extreme. The stunning climax of this little movie, which is both unnervingly gruesome and uncannily emotional, brought honest tears to my eyes. Without question, this is an exciting and remarkable piece of work. 

The second film, “Baby Eat Baby,” is hardly less interesting. With a distinctly Bunuelian flavor to its droll and ugly surrealism, this short tells two parallel stories: an inarticulate nebbish bachelor kills, cooks and eats a human baby, while his Svankmajer-esque claymation/puppet neighbors do the same thing to a live chicken. This short also defies easy description. Like the first film, its sense of space and rhythm is striking, even remarkable. Both films also have in common that they represent dangerous filmmaking at its very, very best.  

Zagar and his collaborators Nathan Caswell and Michael Reich understand, at least as well as anyone, that graphic imagery broadens the mind, as well as the possibilities of narrative discourse; shock value is a crowbar to crack the unconscious, and allow the filmmakers to pour raw story straight in. This lets the audience enjoy many nourishing elements in storytelling, which are often leeched out before the work is finished, by artists whose process is less precarious. I don’t know what kind of distribution these shorts are getting, but if this kind of talk intrigues you, by all or any means, seek them out and see them. Not much out there is as special as this.

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