Pittsburgh Re-Animated at Film Kitchen | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Re-Animated at Film Kitchen

Doug Cooper's short film "Pinburgh" highlights the monthly film-screening series

Doug Cooper's "Pinburgh"
Doug Cooper's "Pinburgh"

If you set American Graffiti in Pittsburgh, crossed it with an animated Wings of Desire starring ballet dancers and scored it with churchy choral music that segues seamlessly into doo-wop, you'd have something like "Hill Dancers." Artist Doug Cooper's extraordinary 13-minute film highlights the next installment of the Film Kitchen screening series for independent film and video. 

Cooper is known for his fantastical, large-scale graphite renderings of Pittsburgh landscapes. These panoramic views from vantage points like the South Side Slopes seamlessly blend the big picture with intimate detail; they're nearly cinematic to start with. Here, with help from animators, Cooper turns his drawings into virtual sets into which he inserts real actors. (Picture live actors riding in hand-drawn cars.) The results include dialogueless shorts like "Pinburgh," in which, amidst everyday goings-on like a streetcar ride, the city becomes a giant pinball game.

"Hill Dancers" is even more impressive. Set in 1960, it follows a young woman — a simple narrative that becomes a poetically nostalgic evocation of everyday urban life at mid-century, as finely tuned to gesture as to landscape. The crowning touch is Thomas W. Douglas' gorgeously light-hearted score, performed by the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.

Courtesy of Film Kitchen curator Matthew Day, of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the May 15 screening also includes Jamie Martina's "It's All Play," a perhaps-surprising 14-minute documentary about how nightclub strippers view themselves. "We're really just dressed-up, sexier counselors," says one. "There is only objectification if you allow it," says another.

Meanwhile, Brooke Schooles offers a series of short, dreamlike videos set to work by local spoken-words artists including Vanessa German, and Jack Wilson with Christiane D. And "Behind the Tube" is a series of short videos by Kaoru Tohara. Fifteen years ago, the Japanese-born Pittsburgh transplant noticed that the same actors appeared in different TV commercials. In "Behind the Tube," unavailable for preview, Tohara re-edits footage to give these nameless men and women their own narratives spanning various consumer products.

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