Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Fourth Dimension (Various)

(The Fourth Dimension is availible to be seen legally on Youtube. The link can be found here)

What is the fourth dimension? Three of the leading figures in experimental cinema (Harmony Korine, Aleksei Fedorchenko, Jan Kwiecinski) have attempted to answer this question, each directing a short which is influenced by this enigmatic subject matter in some way. The result is 2/3s of an engaging anthology that raises more questions than it answers. However, for those with an interest in the avant garde, this might be your blockbuster experience of the year. Complete with gibberish rambings, carefully designed puzzle-like narratives, and enough contempation to out think The Thinker, this is a film unlike any other. The important thing is to understand what you're getting into before hitting "play."

The Lotus Community Workshop

Easily the strangest of the three odd shorts, Harmony Korine's contribution to the anthology is a surreal one man show with surprising wit. The short mostly consists of Val Kilmer, playing a bombastic false prophet, spewing nonsensical sermons to an audience of gullible working class disciples. Shot in a dingy roller rink, Kilmer monologues like an LSD tripping cult leader; passively referencing how "velvet killed Elvis," telling stories about seeing an alien mothership, and describing in bizarre detail a fourth dimension made entirely of cotton candy. Meanwhile, the disco balls from the rink keep spinning, and Kilmer's deeply captivated congregation respond with intensity to each new spout of gibberish like a stereotyped southern church. It's an atmosphere that's both absolutely ridiculous and subtly chilling. What makes the scenario even stranger is that Val Kilmer is playing himself.

In the brief cuts away from his theatrical lecture, Kilmer is shown riding on a tiny bicycle around suburbia at night, and casually hanging out with his much younger girlfriend. It is at this point when Korine's unique storytelling becomes clear, and the short's plot is revealed. Val Kilmer is a fun loving guy, who uses his acting skills to manipulate simple minded outsiders into believing anything he says. He's not insane in anyway, but merely playing an incredibly mean spirited prank on those gullible enough to believe him. It's an interesting reversal on what we'd expect of the plot from the opening five minutes of cultish silliness, and a clever narrative trick by Korine. Though the short grows somewhat monotonous over its 30 minute runtime, it's one of the smartest short films I've seen in a long time, and benefits from a memorably unhinged performance from Val Kilmer.

Grade: B+


A sweet love story, crossed with a psychological examination of mourning, with some traditional sci-fi elements thrown in, Aleksei Fedorchenko uses the idea of a fourth dimension in a far more literal manner than his peers, and steps further outside the experimental cinema bubble as well. The plot is unusually simple for such an ambitious idea: A cranky scientist has just discovered how to take brief glimpses into the past using a homemade time machine, partially for the purpose of seeing his deceased wife. However, there is a neighbor in his apartment complex who is in love with him, but he fails to notice due to his increasing desire to look at his wife, and to perfect the machine. Will he accept his past, and be able to move on?

It's far more conventional than Korine's and Kwiecinski's installments, but makes up for this in its sheer charm. Fedorchenko balances romance, drama, and sci-fi almost perfectly, and the lead actors are very good in their roles. An added bonus is a fresh use of time travel, one which only offers glimpses of the past through a television monitor rather than taking our protagonist to the event itself. This was my favorite of the anthology, and probably the only short I would recommend to any reader.

Grade: A-


Glacially paced and ultimately uneven, Jan Kwiecinski shows us an overlong, but admittedly insightful glimpse into how hipsters would realistically react to the apocalypse. Set in a newly abandoned Polish town, four hipsters break into houses and mess around, all while a biblical sized flood is set to inevitably annihilate the entire town and its inhabitants. The hipsters are seemingly the only townspeople who chose not to evacuate, and embrace their looming death sentence by acting upon all of their desires. They break into stores, hold impromptu concerts in the center of town, and walk in and out of forsaken homes. Up until the final few scenes, these nihilistic antics make up the short's entirety, forcing the audience to spend around 25 minutes watching somewhat self-loathing hipsters do practically nothing.

While Kamil Plocki's haunting cinematography of the desolate town is worth mentioning, Kwiecinski's effort has far too little substance, and grows increasingly monotonous. It's dull, dreary, and overall unpleasant. The extreme minimalism may be what sets this short apart from Korine and Fedorchenko, but it also makes the director's intentions incredibly vague. Kwiecinski also only mentions the fourth dimension in a sole throwoff line, as if to qualify his effort as part of the anthology in the laziest manner possible. Although there is some excellent cinematography, Kwiecinski sadly ends the film on a disappointing note.

Grade: C-

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