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Local Celluloid

When Denver's own Donna Dewey won an Academy Award last week for her short documentary A Story of Healing, moviegoers here were reminded that not every example of the art cinematic springs full-grown from the city of Los Angeles.

The notion arose again on Sunday night, when the Creative Film Group, an alliance of 89 Colorado-based directors, writers and technicians, presented its Spring Shorts Show at the Bluebird Theater.

The six films, ranging in length from 10 to 24 minutes, had their technical warts (subterranean budgets will do that) and their fair shares of unchecked sincerity and adolescent melancholy. A couple of them had all the narrative sense of a tangled fishing reel.

But Coloradans can take heart from the work of their homegrown moviemakers. Nick Guida's The Hounds of Fate, for example, is a fluent adaptation of the classic short story of the Old West by H.H. Munro (aka "Saki"), in which a stranger adopts the identity, and enjoys the comforts of a man who must be his double--until a gunfighter settles an old score with him. It's luminously photographed in black-and-white and nicely paced. You hardly notice that the doomed protagonist is wearing a white dress shirt and necktie that could have been purchased the day before yesterday at Foley's.

Kirk Uhrlaub's deceptively simple Person to Person gazes at a phone booth, eavesdrops on a series of unhappy callers and, in the end, has something to say about the failure of human communication. Phil Hegel's Moments in Winter laments the sting of lost love under a chill mantle of snow, and Lawrence Horwitz takes on the same topic in A Late Mourning, which briefly examines the life of a tidy aerospace engineer whose emotions are a mess.

Laura E. Stevens's Loretta's Surprise combines wry romantic farce and feminine yearning as a bemused single woman (Stevens herself) resists the party-night advances of a slick yuppie lawyer, a pothead guitarist and a hooting macho cowboy, then stumbles onto unexpected bliss with the Italian chef who's catered the dinner. "Wake up and smell the estrogen," Loretta's friend advises her. Better yet, the cannelloni.

Best in show? By my lights, that would be Tony Gault's The Gift, a visually adventurous, structurally challenging meditation on the filmmaker's relationship with his drug-addicted brother. Gault incorporates distressed phone conversations, snippets of boyhood home movies and startling new images--multi-textured dreamscapes, smears of color, even the emblematic intrusion of a tarantula--into a surreal portrait of a family and its most complex relationships. That Gault, who teaches film at the University of Denver, can travel so deep into the human interior in just eleven minutes is a wonder.

The Creative Film Group's next show will be in May or June. For information on screenings and membership, call 355-2385.

--Gallo

 
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