"CalArts Motion Graphics Gala," a program of short student works Filmforum is presenting at the LACE gallery tonight, amply demonstrates a personal vision.
The most striking aspect of the show is its diversity: The films cover a wide variety of styles and techniques that range from conventional storytelling to pure abstraction, and from traditional cel animation to computer graphics. The best offer viewers a uniquely beautiful blend of color, motion and design; the weaker ones make five minutes seem like an eternity.
Robert Jahnke adapts the intricate look of Maori carvings to recount a New Zealand legend of a battle between the Sky God and his siblings in the boldly original "Te Utu" (1980). "Phases" (1978), Henry Selick's powerful study of a panther attacking a horse, is a tour de force of both animation and draftsmanship: Every frame demonstrates the artist's exceptional understanding of animal anatomy and motion.
This contrasts sharply with the serenity of Dennis Pies' "Aura Corona" (1976). Semi-abstract creatures resembling trilobites float through a sea of shimmering veils in this lovely, meditative film. Amy Kravitz's highly textural black-and-white drawings are pure abstractions that contain no recognizable images, yet they move with a natural, sensual grace in "The Trap" (1987).
Not all the works in "Motion Graphics Gala" achieve this level of excellence. The crude, metamorphic figures in Kathy Rose's "The Mysterians" (1975) are less the product of a childlike naivete than a lack of drawing ability. John Adamczyk uses a computer to generate staggeringly complex fractal patterns in "Recurrents" (1987), but there's very little movement in the film, and anyone who picks up a copy of "Chaos" can see the same images. "Pink Triangle" (1989) showcases Bob Doucette's talent as a painter, but its story about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals doesn't begin until the film is nearly over.
"CalArts Motion Graphics Gala" screens at 8 p.m. at LACE, 1804 Industrial St. Information: (213) 276-7452 or (714) 923-2441.