Eric Saks described You Talk/I Buy as a prank call in reverse, where the filmmaker recorded a conversation with a car salesman and limned his increasingly absurd marketing prattle through a cascade of droll collage. Joe Gibbons’s Pixelvision performances similarly mine the humor and pathos of a one-way dialogue: for Elegy he muses morbidly to his dog as they stroll through a cemetery (“For whom does the bell toll?…It tolls for you, Woody!”) and in Multiple Barbie he assumes the role of psychoanalyst to a doll with split personalities (she isn’t very forthcoming). Armed with more wigs than RuPaul, Alex Bag plays all the parts in Untitled (Spring 94), channel-flipping from Nirvana to Kate Moss to the McRib in this merciless, grunge-era lampoon.
You Talk/I Buy
Eric Saks, USA, 1990, 10m
Joe Gibbons, USA, 1991, 11m
Joe Gibbons, USA, 1998, 9m
Untitled (Spring 94)
Alex Bag, USA, 1993, 30m
Programmer Thomas Beard on Pixelvision, the “Underappreciated Flipside of ’90s Indie Cinema”:
I bought a PXL 2000 on eBay years ago, back when I was in college, but unfortunately I could never get it to work. The Pixelvision camera was kind of legendary, a plastic camcorder for kids put out by Fisher-Price in the late ’80s that recorded its ghostly, low-res images onto a regular audio cassette. As a toy, the PXL 2000 was rather a bust, yanked from the shelves after only a year—they were too expensive, they were temperamental—but the story of Pixelvision doesn’t end there. It had a look like nothing else, a dreamy visual texture, fuzzy as a faded memory, and the format had a surprise second act in the hands of experimental filmmakers, who used the device to shoot some truly remarkable movies, like Michael Almereyda’s Nadja, a wry riff on the vampire picture, or Sadie Benning’s teenage bedroom tapes, which, in my estimation, are among the most moving and imaginative records of queer adolescence ever made.
Over the years there have been a number of one-off Pixelvision screenings, but nothing this comprehensive, and many of the titles aren’t currently available on DVD or Netflix, so if you’re intrigued by the curious afterlife of the PXL 2000 and the challenging, strangely beautiful films it captured, now’s the time to check them out. Think of this series as the underappreciated flipside of ’90s independent cinema.