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The Loch Ness Monster:
The Evidence

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. "Incident At Loch Ness"

The first thing that catches our attention is the title. Already we're a little suspicious. It's not "The Loch Ness Monster," "Discovering Nessie," "The Lake Serpent Revealed," or anything like that. It's an "incident." Which allows for all sorts of possibilities.

The kernel is that Werner Herzog, a director of German extraction and a taste for the singular, if not bizarre ("Fitzcarraldo"), is living in L.A. and planning a documentary about the Loch Ness monster that will be produced by Zak Penn, who wrote the recent Ben Kingsley starrer, "Suspect Zero and here debuts as a director. Herzog brings his favorite cameraman, Gabriel Beristain ("S.W.A.T.", "Blade II") into the creative mix as he and Penn plan the venture.

Somebody thinks there's some kind of story here, not so much about the presumed scripted version (purportedly, "The Enigma at Loch Ness") but, rather, about putting it into production form. A documentary. So, pal John Bailey, a cinematographer in his own right ("The Kid Stays In the Picture"), records the proceedings documentary style, which is what we're seeing, beginning with a longwinded introductory scene of a gathering of forces at Herzog's house. This is where Jeff Goldblum, apparently another Herzog inner circle member, shows up for dinner and a quick close up.

The suggestion here is that this is all real, except that it's completely staged, with all these characters as the main characters. Yes, Beristain is filming it once we get out on the Loch and, yes, his footage is intercut with Bailey's, but so are "Rashoman"-styled talking heads giving their side of the story.

The presumed producer Penn who is actually the director (No, not Herzog--we had you fooled), and plays (we think it's an act) an obnoxious type with his own agenda. (However hidden beneath his "character", the impression of a natural self-promoter is inescapable). He attempts to provide his own footage by ordering Beristain to film without Herzog, the supposed director, aware of what they're doing. Herzog rightfully explodes! The character of the producer as directed by himself as the real director embarrasses himself for deceiving his supposed friend and collaborator. Oh, these convoluted inside realities and industry egos!

Added to the crew-cast are a supposed doctor-crypto-zoologist who also has a private agenda regarding the legendary Nessie; and, presumably in response to someone saying, "Hey, we need a chick!", a beauteous sonar operator, Kitana Baker. If you have to have sonar to spot the underwater creature, the operator of it might as well be an attention getting element. In so gratuitous a role, Baker adds sexuality and spunk and acquits herself well.

There is a water-borne model of a sea dragon to raise the dramatic level a notch or two, but mostly it's a pseudo-real fantasy of a genre spawned by "The Blair Witch Project" and carried on contemporaneously with "September Tapes."

Not that it's not fun. In what I found a charming surprise, Herzog's personality is wryly amusing, a guy who can convey the dimensionality of things along with personal stress. Not a bad actor, with a feisty intelligence and a formidable film history. It's mostly interest in him and how he handles the threatening developments, the betrayals and disappointments that keeps our attention throughout the fabricated drama and makes one actually care about how it will all come out. Or, was I deceived into thinking so?

As for the deceptions, hey, this is Hollywood hyper-illusion arranged by some talented people getting away from the scripted norm. It's to be appreciated even if it's too much of the same thing and even if enthusiasm for it doesn't rise much above lake level.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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