Friday, April 15, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Goofy Rock Documentary Focuses On Nerdy Band

A goofy rock-music documentary that recalls "Spinal Tap" in its more absurd moments, Jeff Feuerzeig's "Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King" plays tonight and tomorrow at the Varsity.

The nerdy punk-rock band in this case is for real - in fact, it's been around since the mid-1970s, when two brothers, Jad and David Fair, started banging around on instruments they'd never played before. After that, they developed a paranoid cult following that regards them as persecuted outsiders, victims of a "widespread conspiracy" to keep them away from mainstream America.

Some of the group's fans not only claim that Half Japanese is greater than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones (especially if you listen to them five or six hours in a row with no interruptions). They suggest that the entire record industry was rigged after Woodstock; they dissect MTV "pre-Kurt Loder" and a generation that can't remember rock stars that go further back than Val Kilmer. Meanwhile, in a sequence worthy of Woody Allen, the boys' parents recall how their dogs used to hide under the couch during their practice sessions.

Half Japanese's chief sponsor, actor/magician Penn Jillette, talks about how he guiltily accepted a huge salary for appearing on "Miami Vice," then put the group out on his own label: 50 Skadillion Watts.

"The end justified the means - in this one case," he says. Dismissing trendy groups that haven't lasted as long as Half Japanese, he sneers at the kinds of "bands that lasted two weeks in Seattle."

Jad's darting eyes and irresistible nervous energy carry the concert scenes. Feuerzeig's camera loves him; he's a grungy Buddy Holly. It hardly matters that when he earnestly dedicates one song to the ferris-wheel scene in "East of Eden," he gets Natalie Wood confused with Julie Harris - twice.

More women's films

At 7:30 and 9:30 tonight, the Pike St. Cinema is screening a program of films by an American underground legend, Maya Deren. Her "Meshes of the Afternoon" will be shown with "Ritual in Transfigured Time," "At Land" and "The Very Eye of Night."

The prolific Lois Weber's rarely screened 1921 movie, "The Blot," will be shown at the same location at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday, with live accompaniment by cellist Lori Goldston. Tickets for tonight are $5; the Saturday-Sunday shows are $6.

At 8 o'clock tonight, 911 Media Arts Center will present "Affected Identities: Works by Women," an 82-minute collection of films and videos including "My Body's My Business," "Comfort Me" and "Chronicles of a Lying Spirit."

Also on the program are Lisa Mann's student Academy Award winner, "Seven Lucky Charms," and Carol Leigh and Dee Russell's American Film Institute prize winner, "Yes Means Yes. No Means No."

Next Friday at 8 p.m. at 911: "New Sexual Positions For Women in Porn," a film-and-talk show with playwright and multi-media artist Pendra. No one under 18 will be admitted. Tickets are $3 for 911 members, $5 for others.

Also coming next weekend: the world premieres of Janice Findley's "Faux Paw" and Jadina Lilien's "The Walker," at 8 p.m. Friday and April 23 at New City Theater.

Part of the same program will be Joanna Priestley's "Grown-Up," Lilien's "Ricky and Lenny" and Findley's "I Am the Night." Popcorn is free, door prizes will be given, and Findley and Lilien will be on hand to talk about their work. Tickets are $5.

Around town

Northwest Films by independent film and video artists will be screened at 6 p.m. Thursday at Filmlites, 1001 S.W. Klickitat Way, Suite 101, Seattle. The two-hour program is presented by the Washington Film & Video Association. For information, call 343-9009 . . . At 9 p.m. tomorrow, KING-FM's series, "Soundtrack Cinema," features a locally produced CD, "A Tribute to Sean Connery," with music from Connery's films performed by Orchestra Seattle and conducted by KING-FM's George Shangrow. Jerry Goldsmith's scores for "The Wind and the Lion," "The Russia House" and "The Great Train Robbery" are featured, along with Ennio Morricone's music for "The Untouchables". . . The Seattle Symphony will play music from silent classics as well as a suite from "Star Wars," as part of a "Movie Magic" program at 8 o'clock tonight and 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Opera House. . . The Varsity has a collection of Daffy Duck cartoons Tuesday night only, followed by a Wednesday Truffaut double bill of "Jules and Jim" and "Two English Girls." The theater continues its "Festival Hong Kong" series Thursday night with "Twin Dragons," in which Jackie Chan plays twin boys separated at birth, and "The Heroic Trio," a futuristic fantasy about three women.. . . The Pike St. Cinema is showing Sidney Peterson's avant-garde work, including "The Potted Palm" (a 1947 collaboration with James Broughton), "The Cage," "Mr. Frenhofer" and "The Minotaur," at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Thursday and next Friday. Tickets are $5.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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