Super-8-Girl Games Review
Looking back at the latest batch of releases from Index, the Austrian DVD label specialising in European avant-garde, Super-8-Girl Games easily stands out as the most striking. This is no throwaway comment – the latest discs have, after all, included collections devoted to Kurt Kren, Linda Christanell and Josef Robakowski – but rather testament to the power of the films contained herein. Made primarily during the mid-eighties by Ursula Pürrer and Hans Scheirl, oftentimes in their own apartment, these shorts have been dubbed by their makers “home movies”. They’re personal, in-jokey, but come with a terrific sense of fun. Effectively the pair are just goofing off and messing around, yet it’s infectious and thus tremendously watchable.
The decade in which, for the most part, these films were made is important given how integral it feels to the end results. There’s a punky flavour, a sense of the new wave and no-wave movements, a blend of Liquid Sky, early Almódovar (particularly Pepi, Luci, Bom...) and Desperately Seeking Susan. The “cinema of transgression”, though ostensibly a New York movement, is similarly invoked by the Austrian pair, their final products being sparky, fun, irreverent and – just occasionally – quite shocking. And yet there’s also a quaint charm to proceedings; cut price animation, low-grade production values and a barely concealed disinterest in basic filmmaking syntax are conspiring to create a clash of responses on our behalf.
Not that this should be seen as a problem, however. Rather the zeal Pürrer and Scheirl have for both appearing in front and behind the camera overrides all. The enthusiasm is, as said, truly infectious: it’s impossible not to admire the bravado behind their homemade sets and costumes, their cut-and-paste sci-fi soundtracks (often falling somewhere between scream queen dramatics and Adam and the Ants percussion) and their day-glo colour schemes. (The work of George Kuchar, early John Waters, Flaming Creatures and the Cockettes, incidentally, is never too far away.) Furthermore, there’s a great humour at play in their work. Who, after all, would name a film Zigzagging Rivulet Snakes Up Shamelessly Wetting Thigh if they were entirely serious? Or describe the cheeky Body-Building as “a pirate copy taken from a lesbian porn film” in the disc’s accompanying booklet?
All good fun, then, but what are the films actually about? In a way, you could argue that such considerations don’t really matter. The “home movie” dimension prompts a mixture of oblique in-jokes and overly obvious sexual symbolism. Effectively, however, this only adds to the entertainment: high art meets low art and gets muddled somewhere in-between. And speaking of muddled, the low-budgets only confuse the issue. How can we be expected to look at painted cardboard boxes and papier-mâché constructions (or thereabouts) in anything other than a tongue-in-cheek fashion? Again, it’s no problem, merely part of the fun, but ultimately it doesn’t make the breaking down of these films any easier. Once more, it’s the sheer enthusiasm of these pieces that gains the upper hand and, personally speaking, I’m not too worried.
But filmmakers do have a tendency for growing up and such DVD compilations have a habit of including a wide selection of their subjects’ output. So it is, then, that Super-8-Girl Games also shows us a slightly older, more professional Pürrer and Scheirl operating in the respectively directed The Drift of Juicy and 1/2 Frogs Fuck Fast, films which are tighter, more immediately stylish and much stronger in their sexual/shock content than their predecessors. Yet whilst 1/2 Frogs, for example, has an undoubted, perhaps even lasting, effect (and the greater cinematic command certainly plays a part in this), it’s the earlier, funnier works which deserve the replays and the recognition and which make the disc what it is. Truly winning and, as noted as the start, truly striking.
Released by Index as a Region 0 single-layered disc, Super-8-Girl Games provides exactly what we’ve come to expect from the label. In other words, the presentation quality is typically high: original aspect ratios are adhered to; both picture and sound (DD2.0) come across as well as should be expected considering the formats used (later efforts switching from Super 8 to video); and technical deficiencies in the disc itself are at an absolute minimum (the runtime is only 74 minutes, so the single-layered disc has no problems maintaining the standard). As expected we also find a bilingual booklet (German and English) which offers up articles, interviews, notes on each of the shorts featured and filmographies. As for the disc itself we also find an additional entry in the form of Slocking Walkman, a music video of sorts made in 1988 featuring Pürrer, Scheirl and Dietmar Schipek.
For further information on Index DVD and details on how to purchase their releases, please visit their website at www.index-dvd.at.