Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Best of Independent Films Are There If You Look for Them

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Best of Independent Films Are There If You Look for Them

Article excerpt

AS the usual crop of Thanksgiving and Christmas movies position themselves for maximum impact on multiplexes everywhere, it's good to know that independent filmmakers are also busily at work - producing movies that are independent not only of Hollywood but, at their best, of all the habits and reflexes that predictably crop up in commercially minded projects.

While such pictures aren't likely to appear in neighborhood theaters, the more distinguished examples have a chance at visibility - and even popularity - in museums, libraries, arts centers, and movie clubs. One active supporter of independent cinema, the Museum of Modern Art here, recently launched the 23rd annual season of its Cineprobe series, devoted to a wide range of experimental and avant-garde films. Many of them will continue bouncing around the nontheatrical circuit for months to come.

No movie in the current season is more likely to delight audiences than "Friendly Witness," the latest and greatest work by Warren Sonbert, a gifted San Francisco filmmaker. On its face, "Friendly Witness" is as avant-garde as they come, offering no story, characters, or dialogue, but a generous flood of images linked by qualities of form, color, texture, and movement. What brings the film alive - and makes it a sure-fire treat for everyday moviegoers as well as experimentalists - is the richness, variety, and ingenuity of the visual feast it serves.

Adding to the film's extraordinary power is a superbly crafted music track (rare for Mr. Sonbert, whose movies are usually silent) that begins with a potpourri of rock-and-roll classics before shifting to a Christoph Gluck score that lends added weight and depth to the film's somewhat darker second half. The result is an extraordinarily captivating work that consolidates Sonbert's deserved reputation as one of today's most visually astute observers of the mercurial moods, atmospheres, and emotions that characterize the modern world.

Expansive cinema isn't the only kind, of course. …

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