Shoot the Whale

Ironically titled, Shoot the Whale would never do so. Rather, it's a delirious pageant about violence and the decline of the West. Great barren stretches around Death Valley and Mono Lake provide the backdrop for a frantic scenario, conjured into being by the East Bay Sharks, an early–seventies street theater troupe featuring Darryl Henriques. Like an act of urgent improv, Phil Makanna's first and only full–length film follows this gangly gang of cowboy-garbed gonzo actors as they stage senseless shoot–outs, meander absurdly at an abandoned mine, and hungrily serenade a lone prostitute. It's a "cartoon militarism," as Makanna calls it, even when a Nazi half–track arrives on the sandy scene. Beautifully shot landscapes collide with electronically processed images from circus acts and auto ads to further heighten the riotous atmosphere. Shoot the Whale unreels like a barbed and anarchic pipe dream stoked by the National Harpoon.

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