Incredibly strange Sacramento

When it comes to incredibly strange art films, Sacramento is already on the map, thanks in large part to the work of Mark and Michael Polish. Identical twins who went to Roseville High School, they’ve gone on to create a cinematic oeuvre that makes the Coen brothers seem altogether pedestrian. Somehow, I don’t remember them as the “twin cenobites” in Hellraiser: Bloodline, but anyone who’s seen 1999’s Twin Falls Idaho is unlikely to forget what’s arguably the quirkiest cinematic debut since David Lynch’s Eraserhead. It was written and directed by the duo, who star as conjoined twins Francis and Blake Falls in a surreal story with an eerie half-happy ending. Soon afterward came Jackpot— the idiosyncratic tale of a touring karaoke singer shot on digital video— after which the brothers tricked Daryl Hannah, Nick Nolte and James Woods into last year’s masterpiece, Northfork, a shaggy Noah’s-ark story set in a 1950s Montana town populated by angels, repo men and a strangely recombinant giraffe-like creature.

All of this makes you wonder if there wasn’t something a little strange in the Roseville water system. And, as Becca Costello’s cover story (“23 Degree tilt”) suggests, that same plume of surrealism appears to have found its way into the systems of the local avant auteurs in the 23 Degrees film collective. They may not be working with Hannah and Woods anytime soon, but the urge for artistic expression unmitigated by commercial or even rational concerns suggests a kindred spirit.

Events like 23 Degrees’ equinox screenings and the Sacramento Noise Fest remind us that Sacramento can be a fertile ground for outsider sounds and visions. Hopefully, that will continue to be the case in spite of recent setbacks like the loss of Joe’s Style Shop and the opening-night police closure of Exploding Opera’s Faust at the Gallery Horse Cow. It’s good to remember that the experimentation and diversity operating on the perimeter of our community today can have a profoundly positive impact on Sacramento’s cultural development in the years to come.