Apocalyptic visions

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The Independent Culture
To appreciate - let alone understand - the world of alternative film, a special part of your brain needs to switch into action. The part that really comprehends the meaning of life after a few tequilas. As you walk into Pandaemonium, London's festival of moving images, try to imagine you're a blob of wax serenely exploring the inside of a lava lamp and you'll enter the spirit in which much of the concept for the event was made.

The festival has a wide brief to explore the moving image and includes screenings, gallery installations and forums. Pandaemonium's artists are concerned with the great questions of life, death, angels, sexuality and blind fish. No change there then from the British avant-garde contingent.

The film programme that delivers a horrific counterpoint to an unknown future is The Dead Speak (Thur 14 Mar 7.30pm). The titular piece is a series of monologues by Douglas "Generation X" Coupland, each directed by a different artist. The horror explored is the last five minutes of individual's lives, played by actors including grizzled, soft- spoken Elliot Gould, David Byrne (left) and Molly Ringwald in her new guise as serious actor away from teen-movie queen.

Beautifully captured with innovative camera work, each character takes you through their last moments in the most ordinary of situations - in the car, supermarket or hairdressers. It is a persuasive, chilling piece, the screen saturated with vivid pop-art colours which destroy and melt as the characters' lives end.

Unlike many alternative festivals, Pandaemonium has captured a fin-de- siecle moment. An apocalyptic vision underpins much of the work and many artists have embraced new technology with stunning results, eloquently seeking to explain - through art - where the 21st century might lead us.

SOPHIA CHAUCHARD-STUART

ICA Cinema and Cinematheque, The Mall, London SW1 (0171-930 3647) to 21 Apr

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