Arron Blake, Philip Brisebois
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…closer to the works of Kenneth Anger than anything else, pushing and colliding all these contrasting ideas and thematic glyphs, shattering the audience in the process and leaving them to pick up the pieces.
Nothing like a good underdog story to keep spirits high during these… interesting times. Made as a seeming cinematic dare for directors Darius Shu and Arron Blake (who also stars), this short film was made with a team of three people including co-star Philip Brisebois, for $500, and even as a 14 minute offering, there is no dialogue to be found whatsoever (to the point where the film almost teases the audience with some kind of vocalisation, only to pull back with a non-phone-call early on). It’s been blazing the festival trail over the last year, and while its contents can be debated till the cows fly home, the technical craft is far less questionable.
This is cinema in its purest form, where the audience is meant to rely solely on visual and pictorial literacy to make heads or tails of any of it. Darius Shu edited and shot the film, using all of one camera on-set, and it is almost insane just how much skill is on display. Short films live or die on being able to make every single frame count, and the imagery lying in wait here is astounding in how layered it is. From the ornate to the visceral, from the refined to the crude, it unwinds within the mind of the viewer into its own kaleidoscope, seemingly designed to burrow its way into the subconscious and stay there, even if you aren’t even aware of its presence.
As an ostensible queer movie, involving a Young Man (Blake) and an Old Man (Brisebois) getting varying kinds of intimate with each other, this resembles close to nothing in the modern LGBT+ canon. With its emphasis on loaded imagery and soundtrack to make the bulk of its point, it’s closer to the works of Kenneth Anger than anything else, pushing and colliding all these contrasting ideas and thematic glyphs, shattering the audience in the process and leaving them to pick up the pieces.
But more than anything that cerebrally-inclined, it’s the mood of this piece that reigns supreme. The alienation, the sexual urging, the fear of proximity or even replacement by another, even its dip into Dexter-style genre association; it accomplishes what a lot of headier films wind up forgetting in their hunt for a place at the thinking man’s water cooler. Its delivery may be nuanced, and remarkably sophisticated given its production values and background, but it taps into universal themes and feelings, the kind that doubtless register within the human heart, even if the brain is distracted by trying to cleave through what is ultimately a fascinatingly dense film.
If this film wound up on shortlists for how to make true art with minimal means, there should be no surprise at that. It instils absolute trust in its audience to understand its emotional wavelength, and the technical craft on display allows the audience to return it in kind; it is art as it should be.