Prime Cuts (1981) is a single-channel 20-minute colour video that follows a group of attractive, fit and well-dressed young adults as they "work out, make out, frolic in the sun and dance until dawn." The work received largely critical reviews upon its release, with some commentators referring to it as "shallow." Today, Prime Cuts feels like a work made with an awareness of an end-stage Baby Boom generation exhausted by poverty and protest – a fantasy that brings to mind the incomprehensible characters in Alain Resnais's film twenty years earlier, Last Year in Marienbad (1961).
Like their idols General Idea, the Mainstreeters were fascinated with glamour, both as a subject of study and as a form to be occupied, remodelled. For those who came of age in the 1960s and 70s, glamour received its highest expression in fashion magazines like Vogue, where the representation of lives and those who lived them achieved perfection on every page. Prime Cuts is a work premised on the notion that the lives of magazine models are real (much like another Vancouver artist, Ken Lum, who as a child believed that the bedroom suites in the furniture store flyers that landed on his doorstep were real bedrooms). In exploring the lives of models (some of whom the Mainstreeters worked with through commercial projects), Prime Cuts does not so much imagine what these models get up to both before and after the lights, camera and action of the photo shoot casts them in amber, but extends the fantasy.
Prime Cuts stands in contrast to '4' in that the lives depicted in the former belong to the wealthy, those who lead a harmonious existence; while those in the latter are of a "lower", disadvantaged class position, where conflict, in this instance, is rife. What is more, if '4' is a collaborative work amongst the Mainstreeters, Prime Cuts marks the beginning of Paul Wong, auteur, with Mainstreeters Annastacia McDonald and Jeanette Reinhardt working in supportive roles, either behind the camera or before it.