Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Abe and Aaron

Here's a neat line from Primer, a clever little no-budget film I saw recently, a line which shows exactly, and I do mean exactly, what sort of movie we have here:
Are you hungry? I haven't eaten since later this afternoon.
Yes, boys and girls (girls?), Primer is a time-travel movie. As experienced chronocinephiles know, there are two strategies for making a TTM. First, you can wink at the audience and say, no, it doesn't make sense, but at least it's a different kind of big-screen peril for our hero to get into Рwill he make it back to the future or get stuck in the past (or eaten by prehistoric monsters), will he "change the past" (with whatever consequences this is stipulated to have) or fail to do so, etc. Or you can make it as realistic as possible, tantalizing us with the idea that it might (be intended to) make sense after all. (Or there's the glorious La Jet̩e, which we've already discussed.)

Primer, the title of which I still have never heard pronounced (prymer or primmer?) is a TTM of the second kind, which I generally prefer (you may keep The Time Machine, which I haven't seen). The setup (act I) is very well done: they walk the line very carefully between too much explanation and not enough, and it has a great lo-tech hi-tech look, if you know what I mean. The continuation (act II) proceeds naturally out of what came before (so to speak), with a few subtle hints that not all is, or will be, what it seems. Particularly effective are the unnerving, half-understood suggestions of what might be about to have already gone wrong (oh, stop it). The concluding act is a little rushed, as if they were worried about making it too easy to follow (no danger here) and thus ruining the enigmatic mood they've built up (total running time = 77 minutes). I really don't think it would have hurt too much to make it a little clearer and drawn out the tension at the same time; but maybe the idea is for later viewings to make the right amount of sense. I certainly would like to take another look – maybe that will help tie up some of the loose beginnings. Check it out!

P.S. Here's a review from the above-linked page at imdb.com:
Did you like Pi? If so, go see this one.

By the way, the attention to detail in the beginning is great. Often in thrillers with technical content, if you have a technical education you have consciously ignore all the stupid movie crud that they pull to make it into a good story. But this movie pulls off an incredibly believable technical story, with only a few distracting gaffs. That is, the tech jargon is good enough that you don't get distracted and can focus on the story line.

Final comment: Yes, it is very hard to follow the story line in this movie.

Obviously I'm not going to spoil it, but I think the following fact will help when the movie gets kind of hairy towards the end: Aaron is the dark-haired guy, Abe is the blond-haired guy.

I agree: that last fact is very important. And Pi is the natural comparison (only less techno on the soundtrack).

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