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Elliott Smith Gets Hand Sawed Off by Crazy Doctor

Reading Hugo Lindgren’s thoughtful review of Elliott Smith’s New Moon, a new collection of rare and unreleased tracks from 1994-1997, we were reminded of two short films Smith appeared in during the same era. Jem Cohen’s beautifully shot “Lucky Three” (above) — a 1996 tribute to Smith and his then-hometown of Portland, Oregon — features his famous cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.” Then there’s 1998’s more experimental “Strange Parallel,” notable mostly for the fact that (a) it was directed by Steve Hanft, who made the video for Beck’s “Loser,” (b) Smith plays the unreleased demo “Brand New Game” in it, and (c) Smith tolerates various art-school conventions with an expression that says, “Only ten more minutes until you people leave me alone.” You can watch it in its entirety here, but for those who don’t have the time to slog through its 30 minutes, we’ve listed the highlights after the jump.

6:48: Smith writes the lyrics to “Miss Misery” on a bar napkin.

7:17: Robot shoots bar napkin with lasers. Lasers set napkin on fire.

7:32: Smith lights cigarette off burning bar napkin. Robot dances.

8:45: A colleague of Smith’s notes: “He hates interviews.”

9:00: Interviewer: “What was it like being a musician who sold to a select group of people … and then suddenly being nominated for a Grammy and playing on the Grammys on national TV?” Smith: “Uh … well … it was the Oscars.”

11:38: Smith picks up a flier that reads: “Robot Hand is the Future.”

12:49: Heated discussion: Are robot hands really the future?

12:58: Smith walks down the street, holding a robot hand.

13:40: A Smith fan, her eyelids at half-mast, responds to his show: “I’m just dreaming. I mean, like, I saw colors and lights. I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I felt like lying in a forest with the tall redwoods … just, um, floating in space. It was really … beautiful …”

14:08: Scenes of floating in space. They’re really … beautiful.

15:26: Smith: “I think the music business will eventually crush me, but I’m ready … I like it better than spreading gravel for a living.”

17:00: Drummer Janet Weiss, of Quasi and Sleater-Kinney, appears, dressed up as Cleopatra. Quasi’s Sam Coomes wears a skeleton costume.

19:40: Coomes, still wearing a skeleton costume, plays the theremin.

21:22: A dreadlocked surgeon saws off Smith’s hand.

22:23: Smith’s “severed hand” falls through the sky, landing in a bar.

22:48: A drill sergeant screams at Smith: “I CAN’T HELP YOU UNTIL YOU ADMIT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!”

23:20: Director Gus Van Sant explains that Smith probably has “alien hand syndrome,” a condition where you can’t control what your hands do.

28:30: Roll credits. Wondering whether “alien hand syndrome” can be cured by robot hand, the future.

Elliott Smith Gets Hand Sawed Off by Crazy Doctor