Automatic Vaudeville Studios: Your Hi-Class DVD Volume Two

This compilation includes Schandfilm, The Prisoner of Zenda and The Recommendations. Previously reviewed in BP#28 The Home Town Issue, The Recommendations is in short a sidesplitting poop on the kind of tiny incestuous art cliques that tend to flourish in the council-subsidized Canadian arts scene. In this case it is depicted as an exclusive literary coterie that takes itself and its drek far too seriously. The Recommendations tells the story of the havoc created by one deluded and excluded writer who claims to have penned the Canadian bestseller written by the lit scene’s leading author. Shaking them down like a thug, he puts their politically correct ideals to the test.

There is something charmingly (but deceptively) amateurish about Automatice Vaudeville’s precocious little films. Their exuberance and audacity belie some truly innovative and intelligent satire. It may look like unremitting fun but a lot of hard work has gone into producing this compilation.

The Prisoner of Zenda is supposedly an archival reconstruction of this silent era swashbuckling classic (done in the style of Erich Von Stroheim’s uncompleted masterwork Queen Kelly.) Filling in the missing scenes with titles and storyboards, it is a decidedly funny and clever way to cover up an inadequate budget and/or bad filmmaking.

It is best to play Schandfilm, or shame film, twice. Play it once with the music, a track of improvised human wailing and again with the crazed and pretentious commentary. This art house experiment includes every cliché of sex-death symbolism from the history of english literature the Auto-Vaud’s could think of. It is truly a multi-allegorical work or, as one commentator (obviously carried away) puts it,2 “multi-orgasmic.” Their unstoppable verbiage spills over into a souvenir booklet included with the DVD. (Linda Feesey)

Dir. Automatic Vaudeville, DVD, www.autovaud.com

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