Saturday, September 18th, 2004
Time Travel Is Lonely
My penultimate TIFF film was Shane Carruth’s Primer. I don’t know why I chose this film. I mean I honestly don’t remember how or why it got onto my list of choices – even when I got my tickets a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t figure out what this film was or why I chose it. Convenient scheduling, I guess. Anyway, I went into this knowing only the barest of information and moderately low expectations, and left mildly and pleasantly surprised.
Synopsis: Four engineer friends are moonlighting as inventors, trying to come up with a new product or technology that will net them a big payday. Two of them stumble across something they don’t fully understand, but which appears to loop time back on itself. The extrapolate this technology into time travel devices that allow them to set a ‘bookmark’ in time and then later on travel back to that point and relive the day. The two protagonists start out utilizing their newfound toy for predictable ends, playing the stock market and making money, but things inevitably begin to spiral out of hand. Time travel stories generally start out with two strikes against them as even the most casual of sci-fi afficionados (or anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Star Trek) knows that the genre is fraught with plot-hole peril, a veritable minefield of causality and paradox. While not garnering a perfect score, Carruth manages to navigate these issues reasonably well. By grounding the entire film in as realistic a situation as possible and using a lot of technical jargon, he almost makes the invention seem plausible.
Obviously made on a shoestring budget, Primer tries to turn its disadvantages into advantages, successfully using the grainier, overexposed and undersaturated visuals to create mood and atmosphere. It’s less successful in turning the same trick with the sound editing – I found that in several key moments, plot-critical dialogue was inaudible or incomprehensible because of the ambient noise. I will give Carruth the benefit of the doubt that if I had been able to understand those plot points, the final third of the film would have been more coherent. As it was, I only had a tenuous grasp on the plot by the end. Listening to Carruth’s Q&A after the film also managed to convince me that there was indeed a method to the madness and it wasn’t entirely held together with duct tape and string. The film was Carruth’s debut as director, actor, writer, cinematographer and pretty much every other job you could imagine on a film set. And while far from a perfect film, Primer is wildly ambitious and an impressive first effort – I’ll be interested to see what he comes up with in the future.
The Calvin Johnson show on September 28th has found a venue that won’t require the K-man to tussle with The Black Keys for control of the Lee’s Palace stage. He will instead be holding court at the Kathedral. Yeah, the place where all the metal bands play. THAT Kathedral.
Kozyndan fans take note – the artists will be at the Magic Pony next Friday the 24th for the opening of their “Lactaid Dreams” art show and is also the launch party for their new colouring book of the same name. I hope they bring some more artwork to sell – I don’t really have any more wall space on which to properly hang stuff, but that won’t stop me from accumulating it anyway. The show will run until October 25th.
np – Versus / The Stars Are Insane