Picks and Pans Review: Book of Days

updated 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Wed., Aug. 30, 10 P.M. ET)

E (for effort)

For those unfamiliar with cross-media artist Meredith Monk, a staple of New York City's off-off-Broadway, this hour-long film will either have you jumping for joy or jumping out the window. The avant-garde singer-choreographer-stage director-filmmaker has created a mostly black-and-white movie about life in a 14th-century French village. Well, it's kinda about that but not really. Depending on your viewpoint, you may find this Alive from Off Center presentation a brilliant compilation of haunting images or a strident mess.

Monk describes her work as a "cultural exchange between the present and the Middle Ages." The English-speaking villagers, many of whom live in a Jewish ghetto, are asked questions by an unseen interviewer, some of which they can answer ("Where do you live?"), and some they can't ("What is stress?"). Monk, who has an extraordinary voice, sings throughout. But don't expect Autumn Leaves or On a Clear Day. Her songs, though lush in melody, contain the single, repetitive lyric, "na," as in, "na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na." Is this any way to get a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts? Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya.

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