Two more on Wednesday, starting with the low-budget sci-fi TWENTY TWENTY-FOUR. In the near future (the year 2024, to be precise--and this was made before the recent Presidential election, so that's a total coincidence) the threat of global nuclear war is so great that the government has built a series of underground bunkers to house scientists who will save the species and eventually repopulate the Earth. But this is really an excuse to make a sci-fi film with just one character in an isolated location. One scientist, Roy (Andrew Kinsler) maintains a bunker with the help of a computer screen and the occasional holographic message from up top. As the isolation sets in, he starts to question his reality--has the nuclear war already broken out? Is there no war, and it's all safe? Is he actually the subject of an experiment on isolation? Or is he one in a long line of caretakers of the facility? Or many other interpretations. And it became clear in the Q&A that the director, Richard Mundy, doesn't know which one is true either. Which explains why I found it vaguely unsatisfying. See, I can look at it and realize it's a clever approach to minimal-budget filmmaking. The actor is great, the sets are great, and I have no problem with ambiguity. I like ambiguity (or do I? Maybe I'm lying right now) but when the whole point of the film is ambiguity, what's the point of trying to decide which one is right? That "what's the point?" feeling kind of infects the film. Like it doesn't feel like it was made to explore ideas and feelings of isolation and insanity, it feels like it was made to make something cool for cheap--one actor, one setting. But the skill is definitely there, and it was a very well made film. I'm eager to see Mundy make a film that starts with a point.
And then AMERICANA explored some similar aspects of ambiguity, but with different results (and, as was revealed in the Q&A, a director who knew what the truth of his story was.) Avery Wells (David Call) is an alcoholic. He's hiding up in a mountain cabin away from the world, drinking himself to death. Until he is called back to San Francisco to edit a film. Yeah, he used to be an editor, and his sister Kate (Kelli Garner) is the star of the film within the film (also called AMERICANA) and the producer wants to give him a break. There's some back story with them--years ago they were driving and hit and killed a kid. That might have been what pushed him over the alcoholic edge (or alcohol might have been involved in the accident.) In any case, he gets a creepy phone call from the dead kid's relative, threatening him. And shortly after the film is completed, he makes good on his threat--by murdering Kate. Which is horrible and tragic...and really helps ticket sales of the film. So there's a conspiracy theory that maybe this wasn't just a simple misguided revenge murder. Maybe the producer colluded with him... Avery digs and digs, trying to edit the pieces of information he has into a story that makes sense, all while succumbing to alcoholic urges far too often and alienating everyone who is trying to help him. An excellent little drama showing a snapshot into a character's life with all the foggy ambiguity (literally foggy, this is San Francisco) that comes with it, but one that knows what its underlying reality is.
Total Running Time: 169 minutes
My Total Minutes: 417,617