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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Anywhere But Here (2009)

Director: Bret Thomas
Stars: Bret Thomas and John Lolmaugh

It's always good to see new local filmmakers presenting their work on the big screen at FilmBar in Phoenix. It's especially good to see them sell out the venue. Bret Thomas was here on Monday night to present The Lakeside Killer, a new long short film he wrote and directed. To warm us up, he treated us to his previous short, Anywhere But Here, shot in 2009 with him unrecognisable in the lead. It's an interesting piece but tough to review, because all the talking points it generates begin at the end, which I can't reveal. There's a reason why the mysterious protagonist wakes up in the middle of the desert without any apparent understanding of where he is. There's a reason why, after he takes a fork in a desert path, he immediately finds himself timeshifted a couple of minutes back to take the other one. There's a reason why, when he finds himself among people, he appears to be invisible. I'd love to discuss these reasons but I can't without a spoiler.

What's more, the ending is the best bit. It begins promisingly with a good setting, an unspoken mystery and some neatly framed shots, but the sound is problematic just as quickly. With very little dialogue and very little need for background sound, the desert wind promptly establishes itself as a noisy character with no part to play except to distract us with thoughts of earthquakes that don't happen. This problem is never overcome, and I wonder if the film would work better silent. Certainly it's visually capable, with interesting shots like a striking one of our protagonist against the sun and sky. The progression keeps us interested too, as reality mistreats our lost character and we want to know why. These blips escalate in frequency, depth and meaning until the final revelation, with the title admirably left unspoken. Ambitious and intriguing, it's worthy of multiple viewings and much discussion, but it deserves a lot less sonic distraction.

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