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like Boris Badenov with an eyepatch, a fine fiddler, and songs that ranged from almost middle eastern sounding pop to bar mitzvah dance tunes to winsome ballads. They were followed by Varttina, a highspirited Finnish acoustic ensemble that boasted a multi-instrumentalist mandolo slinger, a percussive rhythm guitar nerd, acoustic bass, and four-femme frontline of the peppiest singers this side of the B-52s. Sort of a cross between Abba and the Bulgarian women’s ,choir, they sing and play traditional Finnish women’s and folk music, soaring though tart, astringent odd harmonies like seconds and sixths, punctuating lines with yelps and yips, and making it all sound right, yet other-worldly. They utterly charmed the audience, especially the shortest vocalist, who in shape and sheer hydraulic power resembled a fire hydrant that pumps adrenaline. The women’s enthusiastic acting out of their lyrics made it seem as though we’d wandered into a marital quarrel. But it was Ingrid Karklins’ show in the same venue Saturday that really illustrated how much Texas music has grown up. Her edgy Latvian-influenced technofolk is innovative yet accessible enough to reveal new musical truths in a pop setting. Other progressive local acts like Glass Eye and Laurie Freelove are also blazing trails into unexplored territory, but as this show and her 1992 album on the Green Linnet label attest, Karklins is making the most interesting music in Texas right now. This edition of SXSW made it clear that you can no longer stereotype Texas music as shitkickers, blueswailers and redneck rockers, though those styles abound. There’s also dance music out there, .there’s poetry, metal \(rusting here as it’s starting to do, thankfully, across might not know it from the SXSW list, rap and funk. Texas is outgrowing its provincialism, learning from the bad old capitalist LA musicbusiness types, and in exchange, reinvigorating the flaccid American music industry with vibrant, vital music. This is a different state than it used to be, and the music reflects that, and SXSW is demonstrating it. The Lives of Brian BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN TOGETHER ALONE Directed by P.J. Castellaneta from EN BRYAN STITES awakens unsettling dreams, he finds himself transformed into a man’s erotic socket. The metamorphosis is not especially radical, since Bryan has had other male lovers, but, until a few hours ago, he remained anally virgin. Beside him in bed is the stranger he earlier took home from a bar. Bryan learns that his guest has just experienced the very same dream that woke him. As if that were not coincidence enough, the other man’s name happens to be Brian. For the next 87 minutes, exchange dreams and grievances. Man to man, they go “tete a tete,” together alone. By daring to serve up My Dinner with Andre in movie theaters, Louis Malle demonstrated in .1981 that two talking heads could indeed be cinematic if the talk was savory. Few are likely toremember what Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn were eating during their 110minute conversation or even much of what was said. But what sticks to your innards from that vivid dinner is a certain verbal rhythm and the drama of intellectual exchange. Except for a few chaste embraces exchanged between its clothed characters, the action of Together Alone is entirely verbal. It was made for a mere $7,000, the same meager sum that Austin’s own Robert Steven G. Kellman teaches comparative liter ature at the University of Texas at San Antonio Rodriguez spent on El Mariachi. But while the Rodriguez romp is a colorful display of how to splurge on the cheap, Together Alone is deliberately austere. Shot in 16-mm black-andwhite film, it stares at mundane truths through the glare of dawn’s early light. The claustrophobic set is a youngish bachelor’s simple bedroom. Novice writer/producer/director P.J. Castellaneta creates the illusion of a videocam recording an actual night-long bull session; and if some of the talk is inspired, much is tauralfecal. In contrast to Andy Warhol’s legendary 1963 Sleep, the six-hour record of an ordinary slumber, Together Alone is a chronicle of insomnia, the drama of two men who cannot sleep for all they have to say. Homosexuality is, of course, a crucial topic for Bryan and Brian, hours after physical intimacy. But, sometimes schematically and awkwardly, Castellaneta extrapolates the dialogue to universal issues of trust, love, identity and death. “How can I trust you in bed?” asks Bryan, whose crush on Brian begins to vanish when he learns that the stranger lied to him last night about his name. Brian also evades answering the question of whether he is HIV-positive. A marketing director in town on business for only a week, he is weary and wary of sexual polemics and of the pervasive preoccupation with AIDS. Married and a father, Brian is reluctant to label himself “gay.” On the Kinsey scale of 1-6, Brian rates himself a 3 or 4. Bryan berates him for irresponsibility and asks him to leave. Their fervid parting words occupy most of the movie. As the title suggests, Together Alone is intent on exploring the paradox of solitude within intimacy, the premise that the urge to overcome the elemental loneliness that undergirds all lust is never fully satisfied. Despite the congruence of their names and their bodies, Bryan and Brian occupy separate universes whose census is one. Their brief encounter may or may not have a sequel, but Together Alone suggests that all encounters, no matter how frequently repeated, are as singular and tenuous as a one-night stand. Faithful to the narrow unities of time, place and action, Together Alone could, for all the indecorousness of a sodomist’s mattress, almost be a Neo-Classical play restricted to a single set and plot and to a span of time not much longer than what, a viewer’s watch would measure. It is more conventionally theatrical than cinematic, and its style of theater has most in common with the kind of Tennessee Williams play in which characters gradually bare cruel truths about themselves. Bryan reveals his unrequited infatuation with a college roommate \(“Your one chance well as the fact that his younger brother died of AIDS transmitted by a female prostitute. Brian recounts how the woman he loved abandoned him and aborted their child when she discovered he was also drawn to men. To plumb the secrets of the psyche, suggests Castellaneta, peel away what we say about men and women and responsibility and.power, until you scrape the scabs of romantic trauma. Together Alone follows the earnest formula of drama as epiphany. After everything it thinks we need to see is exposed, Bryan at last turns out the light. 20 APRIL 9, 1993