Reviews of Art Projected On The Screen
from The New Puritan ReView

various places in the U.S.
circa 1991 – 95

What are you lookin’ at?
And …why?

Here was one of the many attempts I made over the years to solicit outside contributions to The New Puritan ReView. Occasionally, I did get a few takers, but for the most part, it just ended up being me. Hey – I tried!


Purveyors of “alternative”, “cutting edge”, “underground”, “trash”, “cult”, “art” or whatever other kind of genre you can think of a name for…
The New Puritan ReView seeks the contributions of broad-minded individuals who have something to say about the state of lens art – write it down and send it in! Share your insights, annoy people, explore, terrify – – communicate!
If your viewing habits cause you to furl your brow, twitch involuntarily, weep unexplainably or suffer temporary lapses of memory, chances are someone else [like the readers of this ‘zine] would like to hear about it, and maybe even share in your delight.
Animation, surrealism, silent, experimental, video or film – whatever you think is compelling enough to scribble down a few lines about, probably is. You don’t need a college degree [or even a personality] to be a critic – why not try your hand at it?

Here are are some reviews which date back to the early print era of The New Puritan ReView, which were apparently transcribed here from old floppy discs (yes, you read that correctly) – presumably in the same finished form they would have appeared in the issues of the magazine. The dates on many of these cover a span of several years, so it seems these were what I was able to salvage at some point from all the material which was destroyed over time. C’est la vie!

[appeared in: The New Puritan ReView No. 6 (circa 1990)]

Various Artists
Direct Effect
“We don’t last. What we build does. What will we leave behind?”
[“Monuments” – Adam Cohen]
What indeed. Imaginations as littered with the refuse of our media as our landscapes are with the discarded elements of our privileged lifestyles perhaps? What monuments could possibly best describe contemporary society in America? Think about it. Filmmaker Jim McKay and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. have. In 1988, the two formed C-00 [C Hundred] Film Corp, to indulge in their mutual love of independently created film production. Since that time they have released a number of diverse projects, ranging from a music video featuring The Henry Rollins Band [“What Am I Doing Here?”], to R.E.M.’s “Tourfilm” [released through the band’s label, Warner Bros.], along with two “feature” films, “Lighthearted Nation” [a documentary focusing on the inner thoughts of residents in a nursing home], and “Just Hold Still” [a film compilation which includes spots by Fugazi and R.E.M.]. As C-00 continued to grow and expand its’ vision, new perimeters of importance came into focus. The Public Service Announcement – an often overlooked visual stimulant bridging social concerns – provided the next frontier; thus was born Direct Impact, an offshoot of C-00 that would serve a public need in the public eye – literally. Direct Impact was a call to action; many answered the call, including popular multi-media artist Laurie Anderson, Jane Pratt [editor of “Sassy” magazine], rap artist KRS-1, and Natalie Merchant [singer / songwriter for the group 10,000 Maniacs], to name only a few.

Working within a minimal budget provided by the organization through private funding, proposals were submitted for PSAs targeting a wide variety of social concerns, from abortion to sexual harassment, defending the rights of homeless children and single mothers alike, and addressing the right to love, regardless of gender or race. The resultant projects evolved into the series Direct Effect, which has since been made available for public broadcasting and according to Stipe, has been largely supported by smaller independent stations who may have fewer restrictions placed on them. Heady stuff? Perhaps, but to the directors themselves, these 30-second or so spots merely provide a glimpse into areas of our lives often skimmed over lightly or completely ignored by populist media, thus avoiding condescension or mandatory reaction. It is likely, in fact, that many of these messages will be lost on a large number of viewers, in the context of the format itself. In an age of increasing de-sensitization towards violence, sexism, pollution, hate crimes, and other socially tolerable – if not outright acceptable – behavioral deviances, many of today’s T.V. viewers will merely blank out the low-key / head-on impact of Direct Effect altogether, taking the path of least resistance – in many cases, ignorance. Still, the seed will have been planted, maintain those involved in the creation of these brave new PSAs, if viewers wish to shed further light on an issue, it becomes a personal choice – Direct Effect simply provides directions to the switch.

Whether or not that switch is ever turned on depends upon how strongly you feel about the chemicals in your food [in a dramatization by Michael Stipe, we are treated to a few hundred-pound sacks of dry chemicals dumped on someone’s dinner, then hosed down with pesticides], your faith in accurate news coverage [statistics on toxic waste are interspersed with cliches lauding the bliss of ignorance, in Jason Kliot’s “Right To Know” segment], or the prospect of a world in which there is simply no room to dispose of our waste [“in a time when half the nation’s landfills are shut down due to overcapacity”, asks Jem Cohen, “What does away mean?”]. Many viewers may be able to identify with persons depicted in some of the spots: in Jane Pratt’s “Harassment”, the camera’s eye focuses on an attractive young woman whose lower anatomy seems to be the focus of every male shown in the video – “Hey! Look at that!”, “Sweetheart! What’s your name?”, and even follows one over-zealous behemoth into a telephone booth with her, upon which her protests are met with the retort, “What are you, a lesbian or something?” Abruptly, a message flashes across the screen: “These were not actors. Now cut it out.” Pratt’s eloquence is equally powerful as she devotes camera time to women of three different generations; each sharing with us their perspectives on a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, ending with one elderly woman’s remark that, “Pro-choice is pro-life.” Where does it go from here?

Admittedly, this is work that will never be technically “finished”. There are and will always be many people who will simply evade the social and moral responsibility of confrontational issues such as those Direct Effect explores. Many networks are not expected to share in McKay and Stipe’s enthusiasm, and it is anticipated that in most cases, it will be local and independent broadcasting systems who give airtime to these and perhaps more controversial P.S.A.s, if only due to the reluctance often displayed by commercial media to indulge in personal political issues that either question – or challenge – the status quo. Decide for yourself: do single mothers or homeless children have the right to lead respectable happy lives? Can love that crosses the boundaries of skin color or gender be considered “politically correct?” What is a more suitable means of dying – natural causes or nuclear war? The answers to these and other questions posed by Direct Effect had better be good ones – this may be the closest we get to erecting a monument to the mentality of our age, long after we have passed the torch to the next generation. As the pendulum swings between cultural milestone and decadent social failure, the question is posed – what accomplishments will we be remembered for? [Direct Impact / C-Hundred Video • Tax deductible donations may be sent to: Direct Impact • P.O. 646 • Athens, GA 30603]

[appeared in: The New Puritan ReView No. 6 (circa 1990)]

Various Artists
Dope, Guns & F*cking Up Your Video Deck, Vol. 1
[Atavistic Video / Amphetamine Reptile Compilation]

It was bound to happen eventually. Someone was just gonna haveta try’n document the unaccountable goings on behind the scenes at the AmRep camp, for better or for worse. This video graphically captures both, but your guess is as good as mine as to which is which. Atavistic Video, responsible for a slew of such documentaries [Killdozer, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Savage Republic et al], geared itself for the job of capturing the AmRep army and bringin’ ‘em back alive.

To be fair, it was a tough situation from the outset: to try and make the AmRep boys sit still and smile pretty for the camera seemed a gruesome task in itself. A quick glance at the roll call suggested further difficulty: Lubricated Goat, God Bullies, Surgery, King Snake Roost, Halo of Flies …this was gonna require some additional backup. Someone who understood the habits and lifestyles of this gnarly bunch and could perhaps reason with them, or at least have a good reason to begin with. Enter Dr. Sphincter; tight-fisted, unyielding scourge of progress and retention – a tight-lipped pansy to some. Immediately, things began to fall into place. AmRep was bought out in an arms negotiation, the bands themselves reduced to little more than entertainment for the troops – fundraisers for more weapons, in fact.

Atavistic was there, documenting the entire grisly spectacle. The documentary itself would be marketed to finance the overthrow of power, as a “rock” video. The unforeseen ruthless cunning of Dr. Sphincter had reduced a once mighty empire to little more than a Sunday school peep show. Former chief executive Tom Hazelmyer was forced to return to his old song & dance routine, Halo of Flies. The streets filled with sinful women and purveyors of sinful women; mothers hid their daughters from the van flashing “Surgery”, whenever they heard the sound of an amputated blues. Citizens turned to their emergency broadcasting channel and were greeted by the sight of a naked group of terrorists called Lubricated Goat.

The church was the first institution to crumble; parading around in the ruins of savage necrophiliac lust was a lunatic fringe of devil-worshippers known as the God Bullies. The new order became chaos, the new expression a demented grin. The sanctions of art gave way to a dizzying flurry of visual dismemberment; the holy men of the new renaissance bore the distinguished titles of Helios Creed and King Snake Roost. The picture becomes anything but clear here. Appearances proved to be deceiving, as every clean cut lad belonged to one militant rebel faction or another, be it Tar or Helmet, and were definitely out for blood – but whose? One thing was for certain – nothing was for certain any more. The methodological madness which had imprisoned the innocence of imagination had overplayed its’ hand at last. The dizzying heights of consciousness provided a cure within itself – but first, the sickness. The adrenaline rush of Vertigo surged forth as a tonic for the troops, while a nation weaned on Saturday morning television turned up too loud watched as the Cows came home in one piece – at a time.

In short, all sides won. The truth is revealed once and for all in the Top Secret dossier labelled “Dope, Guns and F*cking Up Your Video Deck – Vol. 1”. Could there actually be a second volume in the works? Does the aftershock of holocaust ever leave the imagination of its’ survivors? Kurt Kellison of Atavistic seems to be wisely gambling on the fact that it does not. The Fighting Ten of the AmRep regiment shrug off the opposition without so much as blinking, fueled by the knowledge that they fight the good fight. The struggle to liberate imagination and passion will never be over, however. God only knows what aberrations lie ahead for “Dope, Guns…Vol. 2”, and as usual, he’s nowhere in sight.

[appeared in: The New Puritan ReView No. 7 (circa 1990)]

Blood in the Face
[1990; directed by James Ridgeway]

“Blood in the Face” is reported to be “the scariest film of the year” by some critics, and although that may be stretching the actual merits of the film itself, the underlying point is terrifying indeed. While director James Ridgeway admittedly did not set out to paint a sympathetic picture of American racists, he has perhaps unwittingly captured the irony of one of this nation’s largest underground movements. P.T Barnum would have loved this film; as the man who coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute”, he would have no doubt recognized the embarrassing truth in that statement radiating from every face subjected to Ridgeway’s lens-eye view. What was intended to be an unflattering overview of white supremacist ideologies has evolved into a somewhat disconcertingly humorous documentary of ignorance and fear, that unfortunately falls short of comedy only through the viewers’ awareness of violent hate crimes and their history.

“Blood…” focuses primarily on a small sector of the American Nazi Party based in Cohacta, Michigan, where the general population resembles just about anyone you’ve ever met in your life – and therein lies the true terror. When the camera peers into the eyes of these self-proclaimed racists, we see the people of Anytown U.S.A.; our neighbors, drinking buddies, co-workers, and perhaps even our own loved ones. The Nazis represented here are not necessarily a militant order or an elitist upper class organization, but are in fact a largely working class segment of society that many of us may well come into contact with every time we step outside of our homes. The “invisible empire” indeed.

Although most questioned seem unsure of any unified “political” message, there is an overall belief expressed throughout that white Americans are rapidly being bred out of existence, thus becoming an actual minority. “Telegeny”, or as one spokesman puts it, “contamination” of white genes through inter-racial mingling, is the white power movement’s greatest enemy. Amongst the various factions [Ku Klux Klan, Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nation, A.N.P], there is little else that can be agreed on except the bond of fear and hatred they share for non-whites. Some cite individual experiences as the reason; others genuinely believe that non-whites are a flaw of nature, and must be either re-colonized or exterminated.

One point inadvertently made throughout the film is the admitted lack of scientific or sociological backing on the part of the white power movement’s chief protagonists; more than likely this is due to the gullibility on the part of their followers, who do not require much evidence to justify their prejudice. One such leader was George Lincoln Rockwell, who cited the emergence of Adolf Hitler as “a gift from Providence”, and publicly expressed his intent to “carry out” what Hitler began – although he is equally quick to admit that he was not to be mistaken as a successor to Hitler’s legacy. The awkward irony of Rockwell’s mission is brought to light during a segment of news footage following his assassination, in which a bystander cites the U.S. Constitution as equal rights empowerment – in her own words, “If we destroy his freedom of speech, then we have no freedom of speech.” Certainly this is a difficult rationale for those opposed to hate crimes and bigotry, such as the woman who uttered those words, but this is after all a free country, is it not? When we look into the eyes of the young man who was so moved by Rockwell’s dedication and sincerity that he felt compelled to join his crusade of bigotry, do we laugh at his wide-eyed naiveté or admit in shame that there were no better role models within his grasp? In the theatre where I saw this film, most of the audience laughed through much of the idiotic reachings of these narrow-minded racists, but the bitter truth is that these people have infiltrated some of the highest government posts in the country, and we are barely able to comprehend just how much power they may actually wield. “Americans like sharp quick things”, quips a spokesman for the A.N.P., proving just who has got their finger on the pulse of the moral majority.

Ridgeway doesn’t just let the camera wander and speak for itself; almost instinctively, he edits specific commentary together from a number of sources to reinforce a vivid point. This in itself must have been an enormous task when considering that much of the film utilizes frontal monologues, and carries virtually no plot whatsoever. Rather than allowing any one speaker to dominate the screen for too long , Ridgeway and his crew adeptly intersperse footage from various meetings, rallies, and man-in-the-street type confrontations, as well as interviews with various movement leaders in their homes – their own territory, more to the point. The informality of Ridgeway’s direction serves best to underscore the lack of credibility the speakers themselves possess; any attempt to dignify their statements would have surely resulted in parody, which is nowhere to be found here – amazing as it seems, these folks are deadly serious. In the segment which provided the name for the film, a spokesman explains that “Adam” was not only the name of the first man on Earth, but originally translated as “to show blood in the face”, and then slaps himself to demonstrate the effect. “If you don’t have a conscience, you’re not going to blush”, he explains, implying that people of color are incapable of blushing and are therefore corrupt by nature. A weak link to be sure, but evidently enough for the good people of Cohacta – and wherever else bigotry goes unchecked, for that matter. “Blood in the Face” is just enough to make you wish that guy – and others like him – had slapped himself just a little bit harder.

[appeared in: The New Puritan ReView No. 7 (circa 1990)]

The Nasty Girl
[1990; Directed by Michael Verhoeven]

History: condemned to repeat it, or simply condemned? Whether to ignore the past and risk repeating it or to divorce one’s self from the past and live a lie; that is the question. For some, digging up the past means to be reminded of man’s potential for inhumane behavior towards his fellow man and his own nature, equally measured through brutal perpetration and shameful acceptance of his own level of pathos. Truly, which is the worst crime?

Philosophy seems far less likely a vocation one would actively pursue, than a summation of facts shaped by one’s personal desire to understand what has taken place, and how these events lend themselves to the evolution of contemporary society. Given this perspective, one might be able to then understand the role of Sonja [played by Lena Stolze] in director Michael Verhoeven’s “The Nasty Girl”. Based on the true story of Anna Elizabeth Rosmus, “The Nasty Girl” depicts life as seen through the eyes of a young honored German student in search of her town’s past for a high school contest. The topic? “My Home Town During the Third Reich”. Young Sonja receives little or no cooperation on the part of the townspeople she approaches for information on the subject, and is eventually forced to abandon the project, having failed to meet the deadline.

Sonya marries her former high school teacher, bears two children, and then drops a bomb in the lap of the townsfolk of Pfilzing [the fictional name for Rosmus’ real life hometown of Passau] by announcing that the aborted high school essay is now slated as a full-fledged book she intends to publish. Immediately, her life begins to take a turn for the worse. Once met with stony silence and sullen dismissal, Sonja now becomes a direct target for an unnamed group of conspirators bent on halting her research at all costs. Indeed, the obstacles placed around her would […use your imagination here – the data was corrupted during transcription, sorry!]

Bear in mind for a moment that this is by no means a “Twilight Zone” episode of surrealistic suspense; nor a scandal full of personal indiscretions. Just as Rosmus herself was shunned and attacked in her real life search for truth, Sonya is guilty only of attempting to establish an identity for her community. Not until she becomes an actual victim of terrorism does she begin to realize that not only is Pfilzing’s history of Nazi resistance fictional, but that many of the well-respected leaders in her community were in fact Nazi sympathizers, and that an actual concentration camp existed on the town’s outskirts.

Verhoeven makes it clear from the start of the film that Sonja is no Joan of Arc. Portrayed as a very proper Catholic girl possessing an ardent enthusiasm for her education, Sonja is not preoccupied with with grandiose visions of sainthood or heroism. Simply, she feels compelled to finish what she started, innocently and bravely doing just that. Her mission is not to cast stones at town officials or vindictive neighbors who plead with her to stop – she is driven moreso by her devout loyalty to the very community her actions threaten to expose. One might contemplate that her personal sense of identity is false unless she can reclaim the dignity of her town’s history – even if it involves first clearing the slate of some very nasty business. It is the town’s sense of guilt that casts her as a muckraker, as in any society where blind obedience could be considered less of a sin than say, the atrocities of World War II.

For Verhoeven, the film represents a sense of conviction he feels is long overdue, having been deeply inspired by actually meeting Rosmus, as well as his own childhood in Munich during the war. The 52-year old director has created an ironic comedy / drama / documentary cast against a series of stark and often surreal backdrops, reminiscent at times of the cinematic poetry of Jean Cocteau. For all its’ grim tragedy, “The Nasty Girl” is a light-hearted film throughout. The wide-eyed innocence of Sonja as portrayed by Stolze, and the absurdities thinly veiled by the attitudes she is confronted by, make this a very forgiving film as well. Filled with much resignation and whimsy that only serve to complement one another [right to the film’s hair-raising ending], “The Nasty Girl” also is a poignant reminder that in real life, stories such as this know no end.

© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 1986; 2022

A tiny smattering of what I’ve managed to salvage so far from the remains of The New Puritan ReView:

Mere Pseud Mag Ed (Op-Eds)EarWax (Record reviews)Eyesore (Film reviews)Paper Cuts (Print Reviews)The Vault