BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE ART OF PIXELVISION

By • Apr 17th, 2002 •

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2002
Precious Realm Productions, www.precious-realm.com

Children’s toys are mostly simpler, easier to use imitations of adult tools, such as mini-trucks and remote controlled toy tanks. In 1987, Fisher-Price figured their easy to use, toy video camera, the PXL-2000, would sell big. “They wanted it to be so simple, that the kiddie film-maker can concentrate only on his art.” explained Gerry Fialka, founder of the PXL-THIS Festival. The toy camera recorded a black and white image, with sound onto regular audio cassettes. “Kids didn’t go for the camera. They wanted their toy camera to produce Hollywood color and clarity.” The PXL-2000’s black and white image was so faded, it had no real blacks and whites, just shades of dead grey. The image also had square grains instead of dots, creating a dream-like, moving mosaic. Kids and parents were scared by the black-and-white “horror film” image it gave, but adult artists gravitated towards it, giving this new medium a name – Pixelvision. By Christmas 1989, the PXL-2000 was pulled from the market. Nonetheless, Pixelvision artists began to crop up. The camera became a garage sale favorite, going for five or ten dollars. Garage sellers noticed a Pixelvision art movement out there, so PXL-2000s wound up on eBay for as high as $420. The PXL-2000 wears down considerably every time you use it. Replacement parts do not exist. “It is the only art form that edges towards extinction with every use.” comments an interviewed PXL artist.

Precious Realm Production’s THE ART OF PIXELVISION traces the history of the PXL-2000, (we even see Fisher Price’s original 1987 commercial for the PXL-2000) The disc set also showcases short films made by Pixelvision artists. The hypnotic and honestly sad TOY SOLDIERS, uses these dissipated images to reflect the feelings of a child whose father is away at war. However, GHOST STORY, starring an out-of-focus narrator yelling out a freaked out ghost yarn, gets tiring. My favorite was THE LONELY, a beautifully shot PXL-2000 drama about a male loner and his ethereal female friends. Another moody Pixelvision short uses (or purloins) Franz Waxman’s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN score and Bernard Hermann’s thunderous MYSTERIOUS ISLAND ballad to accommodate his soft black and white water-color like images. Not all Pixelvision shorts are gloom and darkness. ZAP YER ASS is an infomercial filmed like Dreyer’s VAMPYR. A barely visible inventor introduces his new product, a stun gun like device that zaps people who annoyingly yak away publicly on cell phones.

We see clips of the PXL-2000 used for feature films. Michael Almareyda’s funky urbane 1994 horror film, NADJA uses Pixelvision in scenes depicting a vampire’s point of view. Here the dissipated grey and white images look like an elevator’s security cam turned nasty. In a more fun mode, Richard Linklater used Pixelvision for scenes in SLACKER..

THE ART OF PIXELVISION is an exciting two disc set with the original Fisher-Price instruction manual, essays about the Pixelvision art movement, a PXL-2000 Modification Guide, and instructions on how to enter the PXL-THIS Film Festival. As one Pixelvision artist explains: “I found a toy that became a creative tool.”


Interviewed Cast:
James Wickstead
Gerry Fialka

Credits:
Directed by Richard Vaughn

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