Eli Noyes, that well-known man about town who has a rubber chicken in his silk top hat and who is perhaps not as well-known as he should be, tumbles into the spotlight tonight with a load of art-as-mischief on "VTR - Video Television Review" at 10:30 on Channel 26.
Public television, which one would think to be more innovational than private television, has only lately been discovering experimental video. The "VTR" showcase seems to be relying on the old established avant-grade - people like Noyes - as opposed to the less-celebrated new and unestablished avant-garde; and Noyes is really more a film man than a video man; but his work is a delight, so who's complaining? I'm not complaining.
Tonight's program is the second of three half-hours on "The Magic Mind of Eli Noyes." If you missed the first, last week, it might be because Channel 26 seems to be trying to keep the series a secret. As on the first show, Noyes appears in full magician regalia to introduce a few short films.
The longest piece on tonight's program is on videotape: "Fitcher's Feather Bird," a precious gruesome Grimm's tale that finds Noyes romping through an array of electronic effects to produce a piece of sensory candy that is intermittently delicious.
The program opens with "Roaches' Lullaby," a film on interviews (a la Gary Weiss of "Saturday Night") with entertainingly neurotic New Yorkers who discuss their continuing battle with that true monarch of urbania, the Cockroach. The people prowl roach-occupied kitchens and bathrooms for living illustrations as they talk.
"They never perform for guests," explains a man who can't find any in a wastebasket. A woman staging sneak attacks in her own kitchen has better luck. She opens a cabinet door and - wham! "It's them or me," she says after the killing.
But a fellow with abeard has a more cosmic angle. "What if man is the roach of the universe?" he thoughfully posits. "Wht is man happens to be to the universe what cockroaches are to man? Hmmmm. . .
Also on the show is "Peanut Butter and Jelly," in which Noyes' brother Fred consumes a huge stack of sandwiches in fast-motion frenzy; and "Some Experiments" wherein Noyes again demonstrates his facility for inventively and musically animating mundane objects through stop-motion photography. (Noyes did the animated opening for the PBS "Visions" series).
Essentially, Noyes' works are expanded remarks, rhythmic and visual. At their worst they are ingenous and their best are ingenuous, too, which is certainly better than pretentious. It's too bad public television is only giving small amounts of token time to such film and video experimenters and, perhaps worse, insisting that their works be crammed into tidy half-hour samplers. Who's complaining? I'm complaining.