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Avant Underground 

THE SECOND-ANNUAL Bisbee Underground Film festival launches three nights of cinema under the stars at the City Park in Brewery Gulch. Each night is curated around a theme, opening on Friday, June 30, with Bisbee Berkeley, an homage to the king of choreography and quirkiness (referring to Busby Berkeley, of course). Short films include 16 mm excerpts from "The Gold Diggers of 1933" and "42nd Street," Buster Keaton's "One Week," and a montage of live performance clips called "Cotton Club Era Stars." The June 30 feature film is "Wild Wheels," by Harrod Blank, a cross-country exploration of art cars taken from the filmmaker's VW Bug (1992).

Saturday, July 1, springs on the unsuspecting with Paranoid Celluloid, described as "a mapping of fears in the atomic landscape." Live music by Bay Area artist Chiara Giovando creates the aural spine-tingling for two of these shorts. Greta Snider's "No Zone" (1993) gives an in-your-face beauty treatment to the post-nuclear age; while "Crossroads," (1976) by Bruce Conner, features various permutations of U.S. government footage of the first underwater A-bomb test, in 1946. The Saturday night feature is "The Brain Eaters," a 1958 film loosely based on sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein's Puppet Master. Look for the early Leonard Nimoy cameo as spongy aliens emerge from inner Earth to turn people into zombies.

The festival winds down on Sunday, July 2, with the Spellbound showcase. Avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage's painted celluloid makes an appearance in 1999's "The Persian Series 1-5." Bruce Conner's "Take the 5:10 to Dreamland" follows, with a montage of images, rhythm and impressionistic connections likened to visual poetry. Sunday's feature is a luminous black-and-white thriller, "The Leopard Man," about a series of murders in a small, Southwestern town.

All screenings are from 8 to 11 p.m. and admission is free (small donations will be gratefully accepted). To get to Bisbee, take I-10 east to Benson, and follow the road through Tombstone on to Bisbee. To reach the park, take Main Street to Brewery Gulch, go three blocks and look for the 1914-era W.P.A. bandshell on the left.

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