Sunday, May 22, 2011


One of three SIFF screenings of the day, the other two being Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff and Another Earth.

Alert: This movie made me uncharacteristically cranky.

Presented by Angels & Airwaves
USA, 2011
SIFF's page

LOVE (all caps, ::teeth grating::) sure is glossy and technically impressive, alright. Writer-director William Eubank knows how to put great-looking images on a screen. (From the evidence here, if he directed a Civil War film I'd see it in a heartbeat as long as someone else wrote the screenplay.) The film's narrative premise — an astronaut, alone on the International Space Station in the year 2039, is cut off and abandoned by Earth after an unknown cataclysm wipes out human civilization below — is conceptually a strong one, and for the most part it's well presented (before it descends into disjointed, fatuous incoherence). I applaud that it's a 100% independent production, as Eubank mentioned in his opening remarks. A real labor of love, years in the making. No question.

But goddamn. What a load of tedious, baldly derivative (the ghost of Stanley Kubrick has already phoned his lawyer), vapid abstruseness that's "deep" only in quotation marks in the manner of a sophomore poetry major who can't stop bonging out to vintage '70s-'80s art-rock and yet still misses the finer points of the Alan Parsons Project, Rick Wakeman's concept spectacles, and Yes album cover art. (Not surprisingly then, LOVE emerged from a concept album by progressive rockers Angels & Airwaves. The film's Wikipedia page has that history.)

The plot, if that's what we can call it, opens with an extended Civil War sequence focusing on a captain in a doomed battle, then jumps forward to its near-future scenario with the astronaut. In the orbital station, the isolated space traveler discovers the captain's diary from 1864 (seriously?). The writer-director's intention behind this moment might have been to suggest some sort of metaphysical link between the captain and the astronaut, to kindle a sense of awe in the inexplicable joining of two doomed men across time and space.

Instead, it's a ridiculous, seemingly desperate moment, absurd and "mysterious" but not in any good way that's evocative or grabbing. I suspect quite strongly, based on the evidence presented on the screen, that Eubank shoehorned footage from an aborted Civil War film into an undeveloped and unworkable sci-fi premise, hoping that through some alchemy the two would fuse and transform shit into Shinola.

There's no Shinola here.

By the half-way mark, I wasn't so much watching it as simply staring at it, like an aquarium filled with pretty fish that I wished would do something, maybe interact with one another or eat fish flakes ... anything.

LOVE's attempts to shine a blacklight bulb on the wall-poster themes of Connection, Communication, and Love (rather, LOVE) — and then missing each target entirely — would be funny if the whole experience wasn't such a dreary exercise in wanky grandiloquence and clear but wasted talent.

Generally speaking, movies, particular indies, that hang their hats on being "ambiguous" or "narratively challenging" or "interpretive" are not a barrier to entry for me. As regular readers here know, I can appreciate a less-is-more approach or the challenge of filling in blanks myself. LOVE, though, just keeps piling on the more like potatoes and gravy at Country Kitchen, bloating the interpretive ambiguities until they practically sweat poseur grandstanding and ostentatious impenetrability. The result is pretty, yes, but also ultimately counter-productive and, in its final moments, LOL pretentious in the arch manner of creativity stuck in the notebook doodlings of adolescence.

The guy sitting next to me: twenty-something, pleasant, chatty, thrilled to have come all the way from Boston just for this screening because he's such a fan of Angels & Airwaves. As the lights came up at the end, I got up and wished him a good visit to Seattle. He just sat there, stony-faced, as if calculating a way to get his round-trip airfare back.

Oh, and the squad of logo-bearing "astronauts" positioned inside the theater like an FM radio "Morning Zoo" ribbon-cutting at the mall's new Apple Store — just don't.

Besides, while standing in line I received word that my friend Kij had just won her second Nebula Award. And I'm not going to let this sample of dull ponderousness harsh that buzz.

I mean, goddamn.

Music: Simone
Near at hand: A bumblebee the size of an Everlasting Gobstopper thumping against the inside of the window (what the?)