We can rejoice that San Francisco’s Craig Baldwin still cuts up Z-movie turds into magnificently obsessive sci-fi collages—even if his project seems more zine era than blog.
His punky, underground aesthetic, appropriating protected footage and shaping it into anticorporate raspberries, isn’t quite as inflammatory as it used to be, mainly because everybody’s doing it (or did it in the ’90s). But it’s nice to see Baldwin’s still got fire. With Mock Up on Mu, he resurrects some of the more shadowy figures of California’s cult circles, like rocket scientist Jack Parsons and Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard, and manufactures a crazy narrative partly set on the moon in the year 2019. Nuclear waste, floating space weapons, cocktail-bar seductions: All blur anarchically with footage and sound from sources ranging from The Brain That Wouldn’t Die to Capricorn One.
Does it work? Define work. Baldwin’s real subject, encapsulated in his jittery 1991 masterpiece, Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America, is paranoia. The slamming together of innocent images from the ’50s and ’60s into vast conspiracy theories bears the mark of a damaged mind, of self-scarring compulsion. This is why Mu, as welcome as it is, feels a little troublesome: a two-hour jeremiad from a techno-prophet trapped by his own fear. You have to let the movie wash over you—and even on Mu’s own terms, Baldwin has been more savage and clever elsewhere. Still, the film is as dizzy with reference as Paul’s Boutique. Baldwin trucks on, legalities be damned. You owe it to the spirit of all that’s alternative to support Anthology’s booking.