After my somewhat long absence, I’m going to ease back with some thoughts on two films I’ve recently seen:
Oh how do I love mindfucks, a good ole’ meta-genre, so I was pleased to attend an afternoon screening of Primer
, one of the few winners of the Sundance Grand Jury prize that I did not despise upon first viewing. For anyone who hasn’t already heard the Cinderella story behind the film, ex-engineer and filmmaking autodidact Shane Carruth spent $7000 to create (quite literally since he was the writer, director, producer, editor, composer, co-cinematographer, and star of the film) his low-fi, sci-fi, time travel odyssey; took his film to Sundance; and won a couple of big awards (though not big time distribution). While I’ve heard a version of that story before in regards to previous Sundance winners, this time I think the hoopla is kind of deserved. Not that Primer
is a perfect film, but it is an interesting achievement. Shooting in grainy 16mm, utilizing various sickly hues (fluorescent green, drab blue metallic, sun-bleached brown), Carruth creates a pervasive atmosphere of low-intensity dread, pitch perfect for his film, which sees two garage-based inventors, whose exploitation of their accidentally discovered, home-made time machine results in slowly eroding ethics (though without being preachy like a Star Trek
episode) and an escalating game of paradox causing cat-and-mouse. Carruth uses his low-budged to his advantage, filming in various anonymous industrial and suburban locales, using just enough serious-sounding technobabble to be somewhat believable (though without explaining what exactly is happening or how anything really works), and cobbling together an invention that looks appropriately cobbled-together, as well as a bit ominous (known, generically, and somewhat sinisterly, as “the box.”). The entire enterprise is somewhat confusing, at least on initial viewing, and I can not be certain I fully understood what was going on (I can’t even say which version of Aaron was actually narrating the film), but the ending is clearly not a good thing.
I Heart Huckabees
I’m surprised nobody else has written about this film yet, since it is certainly a singular achievement in American film this year, but I could not shake the feeling that I was back in college attending a lecture. A good lecture by a humorous professor, but a lecture nonetheless. I felt like I should have been taking notes. I really enjoyed Jude Law, in his millionth film of the year, and especially Mark Wahlberg, who I thought stole the show.