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Barry Morse

Post-Pickle Surprise: Tracing the Influence of Tom Rubnitz at Anthology Film Archives

by Emily Colucci on August 22, 2016
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Even if you don’t know the name of the director or the glitter-covered club kid stars, you’re probably familiar with Tom Rubnitz’s viral video “Pickle Surprise.” With over two million views and counting, the Internet granted the East Village filmmaker a prolonged afterlife. (He died in 1992 due to complications from AIDS.) After inadvertently connecting with a new generation of YouTube viewers, what is the legacy of Rubnitz’s fast-paced, TV-drenched brand of cinematic camp on today’s filmmakers and artists?

This question was explored on Sunday, August 14 in a whirlwind of videos and films at the Anthology Film Archives, courtesy of a screening organized by Dirty Looks’ Bradford Nordeen. The videos ran the gamut from literal reinterpretations to subtle references to Rubnitz’s films. Barry Morse’s “Ookie Cookie” combined tropes from “Pickle Surprise” and its sequel “Strawberry Shortcut” into an obsessively direct tribute to Rubnitz’s queer psychedelic vision while Brice Dellsperger’s “Body Double 34” featured transgender models on magazine covers maddeningly lip-synching dialogue from My Own Private Idaho. Overall, Rubnitz’s lineage appeared in the form of copious drag queens, shocks of color, media-soaked imagery and an over-the-top hallucinatory style.

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