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Dry Documentary Explores The Many Evils Of Dust

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Some people can't wait for Watchmen. I'm wired about the enterprising youths doing live-action remakes of "Lint," the killer spoof of a bad black-and-white student art-film short from the TV show Family Guy. Those kids have emulated Seth McFarlane's animation well, even though, unlike the sitcom, they don't have a leading lady who changes her name to something less Jewish after graduation.

That brings us to Dust, which also sounds like it could be a bad black-and-white student art film but it's no such thing - with the qualifier that it still might, over the long haul, put as many people to sleep as bad student art films.

That's a pity. There are truly mind-expanding elements (and compounds) in German nonfiction filmmaker Hartmut Bitomsky's quite literal conceptual scrutiny of staub, or dust. Bitomsky starts by drawing a parallel between the most minute dust particles visible and film grain itself (celluloid film grain; you student art-filmmakers suckled on digital video wouldn't understand). Dust is the enemy of the motion-picture projectionist, the art curator and the obsessed homemaker (we meet one frau who obsessively cleans to the point of dismantling appliances and wiping their interiors for hours).

At the same time, dust is basically what constitutes the pigment in paint; thus, it is art. Dust is also a health irritant/cancer threat - from the asbestos fibers found during the demolition of an East German Communist building that requires careful cleanup operations carried out by workers in moon suits, to the uranium dust from weapons used in the first Gulf War that likely contributed to horrific birth defects found in offspring of returning American veterans (beware: You see the Lovecraftian results). Bitomsky's tour of Mondo Dusto covers a lot of ground (yes, including a vacuum-cleaner factory). Still, the lengthy presentation leans toward being dry as … lint, especially during interminable interviews with Teutonic folks in white lab coats. The quasi-poetic narration-recitation in somber, somnolent German, reminds me of Carl Sagan's dramatization of astronomer Johannes Kepler on Cosmos; dude was brilliant, yet his muttered classroom lectures put pupils to sleep.

No, a hyperactive Bill-Nye-the-Science-Guy approach would not have been welcome either. But some music by the Dust Brothers would have been nice.

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