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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dark Star

Before Tilda there was Andrew. That's just one takeaway from spending a few hours with the absorbing early films of Derek Jarman. Before he went on to make feature-length ruminations on beauty, homoeroticism and death (Caravaggio, Blue), the experimental British filmmaker, who himself died of AIDS in 1994, broached the same heavy themes in short works shot in the grainy, washed-out warmth of Super 8 film.

The X initiative, a year-long series of quality art programming housed in the space formerly occupied by Dia:Chelsea, is screening these rare gems on three floors, offering a perfect Saturday afternoon antidote of artsy malaise to the annoying chirpiness that befalls the city in spring. Poetic, cryptic and relentlessly melancholy (classical music helps set the tone), the nearly twenty films range from the macabre pretty-boy ballet of "Death Dance" to the high-camp artifice of "Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati," featuring a likely Jarman lover playing dress-up with a blasé coterie of friends. In other films, the eye is sated with images of Victorian boathouses, Stonehenge-like formations, mirrors, rituals and the distorted face of Genesis P-Orridge, frontman of cult industrial band Throbbing Gristle.

There's notable fashion too. Entire sequences recall a Helmut Newton shoot, while the getups for said dress-up party seem lifted straight out of a Saint Laurent collection circa 1975. Lovers of avant-garde sadness had better hurry though; the films are on view through the end of the month only.

—Suleman Anaya





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