North by Northeast Film Festival June 10-13 at the NFB Cinema (150 John). Individual tickets $5 at the door with NXNE wristband ($22). www.nxne.com. Rating: NNN
For the fourth year running, NXNE explores the fruitful symbiosis of film and music with a grab bag of films by, for and about musicians. Forget wind machines, lip-synching and people in sparkly pants dancing in a line. The Music Video Festival (June 12, 2:30 pm, rating: NNN ) is a reminder that this is where the really fun short films are happening these days. The best of the lot are animated - the video for Hot Autism by the Joggers looks like the Royal Art Lodge remake of Yellow Submarine. Machine Translations ' Amnesia video complements the tune's twinkly psychedelia with super-cute tree-of-life-style anime. But beyond animation, beyond plot, in the realm of sheer mood is the fabulous Meesoo Lee 's sinister, brain-stretching take on Luna 's song Rememories , with its retro-vampire theme and multiple dissonant narratives.
A couple of the movies are by musicians getting sociological. Katja Esson 's Ferry Tales (June 13, 2:15 pm, rating: NNNN ), based on an idea by producer-musician Cassis (who gives a master class at noon on June 12), is an in-depth look at the social ecosystem that has evolved in the ladies' powder room on the Staten Island ferry. For half an hour each morning and evening, a close-knit clique of women converge in front of the mirrors to slather themselves with makeup and converse, momentarily free of bosses, husbands and children.
In Rod Murphy Jr. 's Greater Southbridge (June 12, 6:30 pm, rating: NNNN ), the filmmaker returns to his dirt-poor hometown in Massachusetts to catch up with the large assortment of odd characters there. It starts out in the same half-condescending, half-fascinated tone as Errol Morris's Vernon, Florida, but as Murphy digs deeper, the film shades from voyeuristic to deeply felt.
There are musician bios, of course. The above-mentioned Cassis also presents her 1995 short film about guitarist Marc Ribot , Descent Into Baldness (June 12, 4:30 pm, rating: NNN ), which layers spare, intelligent sound bites about politics, art and philosophy against his sweet, herky-jerky guitar and artily montaged cityscapes and concert footage.
Sadder and less stylish but more interesting is Nicholas Triandafyllidis 's documentary on Screamin' Jay Hawkins , the moronically titled I Put A Spell On Me (June 11, 5:15 pm, rating: NNN ), which intercuts footage from Hawkins's last concert in Athens, Greece, with extensive interviews with Jim Jarmusch , Bo Diddley , Diamanta Galas and Hawkins himself.
Hoo boy, he was a complex and troubled man. His life story scans like a cross between Oliver Twist, Catch-22 and Beneath The Underdog.