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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Mirage (2011)

Director: Miao Yu
Stars: Cory Aycock, Courtney Alana Ward and Andres Acosta
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of time inside movie theatres and I've seen how difficult it is for them to stay alive in a world of changing technologies and competing attractions. It's not an easy thing today to find a venue screening actual film as everything is going digital. I'm sure that writers Miao Yu and Christopher Amick wouldn't expect that what I'd take away from their film is the joy that in 2064 AD there might still be a movie theatre showing real 35mm. Judging from the posters in the Mirage lobby, all films in the future will be made by the Chinese: Losing Coconato is directed by Miao Yu and The Adventures of Captain Adam by Sissy Tsu. These are self-referential though. Miao Yu directed and co-wrote this film while Laura Coconato produced. Sissy Tsu isn't in the credits. Anyway, I just wish I could be projectionist Andrew Pan's audience, as he doesn't have one otherwise, perhaps because he's showing just another romcom.

When a bulb blows and the movie stops midstream, nobody notices because he is literally the only person in the Mirage. The popcorn machine has a shroud over it. The counter is covered in dust. Nobody goes to this theatre and Pan must be independently wealthy to be able to keep it open, though this 2064 AD does appear to be a true post-scarcity world. I really wish I could be there for that too. I'd rather not have to deal with Treasure Island though. While compared with the Mirage, which is retro even today, it's much more like the sort of futuristic vision you might expect for the year, it's recognisably grounded in today. A physical store where Pan can pick up a physical item, it's bare except for GEF, a Genuine Electronic Friend, like Microsoft for Stores. It says, 'Have a nice day,' when it delivers Pan's bulb, but a call for assistance generates technical difficulties. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's here that our story really begins, because the young lady that emerges carefully from behind the scenes is obviously as uncomfortable being around another real person as Pan is. This is key, as without it the ending might seem a little insulting. Pan spends his time in an empty theatre, imagining himself into the role of the leading man in the romcom he's projecting. When the new bulb projects him into the picture and he finds himself having to live that role, it's an eye opener. Initially it's because he has to interact with a woman in a romantic setting, but it becomes more than that and that underlines that the bulb is teaching him a lesson. Without thinking about the young lady at Treasure Island, it feels like a dubious lesson to give to a man who screens movies in a movie for people who watch movies. Yet, I wonder if it's not aiming just at his geeky solitude but at life in a world with no physical interaction. I hope so, but it's still not the ending I wanted.

Other than the ending, I liked Mirage. Current events notwithstanding, there's something about old school movie theatres that feels somehow timeless and they make for glorious environments for futuristic science fiction to play in. I liked Cory Aycock's portrayal of Pan, though he does feel well rounded for a geek whose only friends are fictional ghosts of the past on his theatre screen. I liked Ashley Pincket even more as Dona, the tentative Treasure Island assistant, enough that I really wish Yu and Amick had gone for the obvious ending for a change. There was room to make it awkward and meaningful rather than just sappy and it would have given Pincket more to do. I liked the design of Treasure Island, which is half welcoming and half padded cell. The effects are well done. I even liked the film within a film, though more for how it fit this story than for itself. It looks more rom than com and rather painful to sit through otherwise. This one is much better.

1 comment:

Christopher Amick said...

Thanks for the review! It was a really fun project to work on and I'm glad you got some joy out of it.