Saturday, March 23, 2013

Urine Man (2000)

WHO: The Urine Man himself is in some sense the auteur of this film, as he demanded control over when the camera could be turned on or off before he'd allow himself to be interviewed- although 'interviewed' may not be the correct verb as he also demanded no questions be asked of him during the filming. But as he proved to be anonymous and untraceable, it makes sense that local filmmaker Greta Snider get the credit as director; she certainly deserves credit for instigating the filming of the Urine Man and presenting him to the world.

WHAT: "You are what you eat. You can't be yourself unless you eat yourself." If one takes the initial aphorism literally, the Urine Man's conclusion bears an impeccable (and in the context of the rest of his rant, hilariously disgusting) logic.  However.

Filmed in 1999, this piece was released after the ringing in of the new millennium, an act that in itself discredits its subject, as he makes Y2K predictions that obviously had not come to pass by the time any wider public heard them. His error ensures that the rest of what he says cannot be taken as a mystical tapping into secret wisdom, but rather a particular, (and perhaps particularly "entertaining") expression of irrationality. Perhaps it could even do some good as a kind of reverse-psychology public service message: don't do what the Urine Man recommends, unless you want to be like him.

A compassionate viewer may resist laughing at or being entertained by the Urine Man's monologue. Pity or anger or more complex feelings may arise instead of, or along with, such reactions. This is how Snider's film works as not just reportage but art. Sara Herbet probably says it best when she identifies it as a film that "straddles voyeurism, taking advantage of a crazy person, and giving voices to the underrepresented." Urine Man's formal simplicity is as deceptive as the structures its subject imagines are cloaking the kind of "wisdom" he has to share with us.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at Artists' Television Access, as part of a full program of films that begins at 8:30.

WHY: Tonight's ATA screening is part of Craig Baldwin's weekly screening series entitled Other Cinema, one of the Bay Area's most convivial and unpretentious showcases of mindblowing experimental film and video work, as well as one of its longest-running. Other goodies on offer this evening include Kathryn Ramsey's West: What I Know About Her, Marcy Saude’s Sangre de Cristo, Vanessa Renwick's Portland Meadows, Brigid McCaffrey's AM/PM, and Bill Daniel's Texas City. Future Other Cinema attractions in the coming weeks include an April 13th magic lantern presentation by Ben Wood channelling Eadweard Muybridge, a 4/20 premiere of Baldwin's own double-projection Nth Dimension, a May 4th space-age slide show from Megan Prelinger, the annual blowout "New Experimental Works" on May 25th, and much much much much much more.

HOW: I believe Urine Man is planned to screen digitally, if only because usually the Other Cinema calendar page explicitly mentions when a 16mm or Super-8 film is expected to be shown. Among tonight's program selections only West: What I Know About Her is called out as a 16mm showing.

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