Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jason watches the works of J. X. Williams, including most of "Peep Show"

Still catching up on the weekend. So after Zombie Strippers we all (including Jay Lee) headed down to the Vortex for a special night of Underworld Cinema: The Life and Work of J. X. Williams with Peep Show.

Noel Lawrence, curator of half of the J. X. Williams Archive (the half that exists in his apartment), was there to introduce the films and explain who J. X. Williams is. J. X. Williams is a cult film director, currently unknown to more than a small, rabid fan base. But those fans believe he will someday be recognized as a genius, and they pay thousands of dollars for 3-minute film reels of his work on Ebay. That's how Lawrence originally found out about him. And that was essentially the introduction to three of J. X.'s short films. "Psych-Burn" is the 3-minute film that introduced Noel to J. X., and is essentially a 3-minute distillation of the 60's--no titles, no credits, just a garish, colorful trip. Then there was "Satan Claus", which is exactly what it sounds like, and "The Virgin Sacrifice" which was originally a feature length film. The original was lost and this short was cobbled together mostly from cutting-room scraps.

Then there was the feature "Peep Show". But first a little more introduction. J. X. got his start in the film business during the early years when the mob had interests in Hollywood. As a young assistant, he unwittingly crossed a mob representative, who fortunately thought it was pretty funny and offered him a job making movies. Of course, the real mob-produced films were pornos, so J. X. started out his career directing porn. As a reward for his work, the mob also let him shoot concert footage of their most popular singers--Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Fast forward several decades. J. X. has left the country and is living as an ex-pat in Switzerland (I think, it was definitely Europe somewhere). He sees the Rat Pack on TV, misses the guys, and decides to make a movie about them. He's got some of his footage, plus public domain and "found" footage, so he edits it together into a pseudo-documentary intrigue about Frank Sinatra, Sam Giancana, J. Edgar Hoover, and others. Unfortunately, I had to split to catch the BART home before it ended.

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