We all live in a prison. Most of us don’t know we live in prison.
— Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School
Cinematheque concludes its 2018 exhibitions with a rare screening of Laura Parnes’ Blood and Guts in High School (2007), a chillingly dystopic deadpan dramatization of Kathy Acker’s infamously pornographic, plagiarized, resistant, oedipal and anti-imperial novel of the same name (published 1984). Parnes’ version places banal scenes from the life of its nihilistic anti-heroine Janie/Janey Smith in the context of U.S. news events, 1978–1982 (the years of the novel’s composition) including the Jonestown Massacre, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the Iranian Hostage Crisis and more. Endlessly timeless, Parnes’ Blood and Guts… presciently dramatizes the banality of everyday institutional oppression in these United States. (Steve Polta)
“Shot with an hallucinat[ory] Kubrickian eye, Blood and Guts… brings a sleek cinematic aesthetic to the often ineptly-lensed genre of gallery video, and offers the form a new role: as Hollywood’s unconscious, peeping into the nightmare from which we cannot awake.” (Ed Halter, Light Industry)
Where the thrill of Acker’s gory text and the emotional manipulation of teen-focused films pull out the threads on every heart patch sewn to a young girl’s backpack, Parnes’s videos come off as boring, staged, painfully acted shorts—they are not meant to entertain. They are meant to bludgeon the teenage dream to its untimely death. (Alicia Eler, Hyperallergic)