Celluloid Zeros

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Stephen Parr, founder/director of San Francisco's Oddball Film + Video, an offbeat stock house if ever there was one, is very pleased with his screening at a downtown cinema in New York last month. His fourth presentation in the ongoing "Historical/Hysterical" series got a big turnout with plenty of avant-art folks on hand, including photographer Cindy Sherman. Parr, a self-described "cultural anthropologist" and a longtime film and video producer and archivist, has a collection of old safety, training and sales films, not to mention commercials and exploitation movie trailers, that make for what he calls "a fractured compendium of global propaganda." After all, "it's all propaganda," he insists. "Every film that's made is designed to promote a concept or a lifestyle. And everything looks stupid when seen retrospectively. Even commercials from five years ago look stupid now." Some of the titles from the screening say it all: Watch Where You're Going; Wear Safety Shoes (seen here); and Use of Mace. Moreover, Parr peppers his showings with old commercials that are screened for their unintentional laugh value. But Parr, as a rule, loves commercials. "The advertising world is where all the creative stuff is happening," he says - and sometimes it happens with his assistance. He licensed footage "of a guy driving a giant hamburger built around a motorcycle" for a recent Fruitopia spot, and he's ready and waiting for what's left of the dot-com companies to dip into his vault of goodies (see oddballfilm.com for more info). Anyone for a wacky New York State Department of Health PSA titled Starve a Rat?
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