Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO VILENESS FATS ? (1984)

Historically, one of THE RESIDENTS’ primary obsessions has been the creation of alternative worlds. Sometimes this has been accomplished with sound - Mark of the Mole, Not Available, God In Three Persons; sometimes with live performance - The Moleshow; and sometimes with video - The Third Reich N’ Roll, It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, and, perhaps more than any other project - the unfinished feature length video, Vileness Fats. The world of Vileness Fats, consisting of a village, a cave, a desert and a nightclub, is tiny, claustrophobic and primarily populated by one armed midgets ...or “little people” - if we remain within those contemporary standards endorsed by the politically correct. So what purpose could THE RESIDENTS have possibly realized by creating this tiny world full of mutant midgets? Some would say it was a brilliant way of adapting to their limits: working in a small studio with a ceiling height of under 12 feet, THE RESIDENTS were still able to create a fairly large bridge set, a cave, and a night club by making all the actors squat down and hop. Others might say that the group was so naive and inexperienced that the only way they could possibly camouflage their spirited, but amateurish writing, acting, music, direction and production techniques was by creating a world that was so completely ALTERNATIVE, that it defied comparison to anything in the so called “real” world. With THE RESIDENTS, of course, one never knows, but what is known is that the group spent four years from 1972-76 shooting anywhere from 60%-75% of the projected feature length video. Then, as the project was headed towards the ending stages of production, the group suddenly abandoned its “all time underground masterpiece.” Some say the “movie,” as they called it, was brought to a halt by internal conflicts within the group, others say the technological challenges left in the remaining scenes, as well as post-production problems, were too difficult to overcome, while others point to the fact that, since there were no viable distribution channels available for movies shot on half inch B&W video in 1976, the group’s initial naivetĂ© was finally overcome by reality. Again, we’ll never know. Two versions of the incomplete feature have been released: the 32 min long “Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?” (1984) and the tighter 17 1/2 min “Vileness Fats (Concentrate)” (2001), and both come across as artifacts from some hellish but mildly amusing nightmare - the claustrophobic product of a model railroad builder’s beyond bad acid trip. Due to the extremely poor audio quality of the original footage, both are primarily silent films with RESIDENTS’ soundtracks, and while there is some attempt to explain the plot, the result is not unlike pitching horseshoes in a closet - unsatisfying at best. Again, some say the obvious explanation is that there was no script - that the story and dialog was purely improvised, that THE RESIDENTS made it up as they shot. But, according to the group, these rumors are untrue.

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