Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan and James McNew -- three of independent filmmaking's mightiest and most uncompromisingly idiosyncratic talents -- have again combined their formidable talents to create a unique visual work of enduring strength and beauty. The collaborative trio share directing, producing and starring roles in their latest tragicomic epic, Electr-o-pura. Following its theatrical release this April, Hubley, Kaplan, and McNew will embark on an ambitious promotional tour -- not only enduring a gruelling interview schedule, but actually acting out large portions of the work in groundbreaking performance tableaus.
Electr-o-pura is the seventh long-form release from Hubley and Kaplan. Their latest three efforts have been fortified by the additional talents of McNew, whose rapidly emerging vision displays to-be-reckoned-with grace and verve. James broke into the industry in 1983 when he showed up drunk for a Martha Quinn/Stiv Bators interview shoot for MTV. The footage never aired, but McNew's abrupt and oblique handheld cinematography technique set the MTV standard for years to come. Always a step ahead of the competition, James also went pioneer "vibing" rock video casts and crews, and gained a certain amount of notoriety as "the guy who held the ice cube" in one of the spicier versions of Godley & Creme's "Girls on Film" clip for Duran Duran. While James has been an equal member of the cinematic trio since 1992, the release of EOP shows him finally stepping into the limelight with style and authority, hinting at true auteur potential. The mob scenes that greeted McNew's appearances at recent Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals surely foreshadow the fame that awaits this gifted young mind.
In Electr-o-pura, Kaplan and Hubley do what they do best: merge grainy, dreamlike film noir segments with preternaturally intense animated interludes and Warholian forays into the artfully obtuse world of cinema verité. Hubley's background in animation brings a surreal edge to Kaplan's more earthbound live-action pragmatism, and the result of the cross-pollenization of the two techniques is nothing short of electrifying. For this reviewer, the most satisfying part of the film comes when Hubley's character, Antigone, wanders away from her animated cell and falls into an Alice-In-Wonderland-like hole dug by Kaplan's alter-ego, Buddy. Antigone plunges past darkened walls illuminated only by negative blurbs from reviews of past Kaplan/Hubley efforts, and becomes increasingly despondent as she plummets into the seemingly bottomless abyss. Just when her despair reaches its darkest depths, the screen explodes in white light!...and when the smoke clears, Buddy is holding her slight frame in his arms, cooing soothing, wordless sounds. It was all a dream. It's this sort of gentle, self-referential/post-modern allegory that will give the jaded, cynical world of 90s cinema the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. Surely an Electr-o-pura soundtrack release would be the ultimate in absurd redundancy -- the trio crafts such works of atmospheric lushness that the sights and sounds stay with you forever.
Georgia Hubley — drums, vocals
Ira Kaplan — guitar, vocals
James McNew — bass