Outside Edge: Joseph Gallivan on a band of Pixelvisionaries

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The Independent Culture
THE PXL 2000 is a toy video camera made by Fisher Price in the late Eighties which sold for dollars 100. It was made of the flimsiest plastic, had a fixed lens and recorded on to standard audio tape. The images it produced were terrible - imagine an overexposed black and white photo which has been badly scanned by a fax machine. Thanks to the whirring motor which propelled the tape at high speed, it sounded pretty awful too. Kids hated it, and it was soon obsolete.

'I knew about them but I couldn't find one anywhere,' says Michael Almereyda, a sometime Hollywood screenwriter and director. He moved back East looking for a cheap way to realise his ideas. 'I was talking to a friend about it in the street when this lady walking by overheard me. She just happened to have one in her purse. Anyway, I got the toll- free number of this warehouse in Ohio which had the last ones and I bought six of them with Jim Denault, my cameraman, at 45 bucks each.'

The resulting effort was Another Girl, Another Planet, a coolly romantic tale of two young New York neighbours and their tangled relationships. 'I like the dreamy, lyrical quality of the image this camera gives, the sense of heightened reality,' the director says. 'The focus works emotionally. The main character's emotional attachments are fickle, they go in and out of focus. I think the camera approximates that feeling.'

The work of other independent film-makers, inspired by Another Girl, is now doing the rounds in the UK. Typical of the Pixelvisions PXL shorts is Joe Gibbons' Elegy, a 12-minute stroll around a graveyard in which the auteur interrogates his dog (Woody) about mortality. The pictures are extra hard to make out thanks to wobbly camera work, fuzzy electronic interference, and a playback speed which is slightly too slow. 'I like that one. The pixels are always shifting around and the image threatening to break up, it's fragile and vulnerable . . . just like the subject he's talking about,' says Almereyda. 'And if you don't like it, you can always play it on your stereo. It sounds like whale noises. Only slower.'

Pixelvisions plays at Manchester Cornerhouse on Sunday (061-228 2463), then touring (071-831 7746)

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