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The Off-Hollywood Film Guide:
The Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films on Video and DVD
by Tom Weiner


. "Primer"

The "Blair Witch Project" meets reality TV in this adventure in weird science. This time it's captured on super 16mm film, and its cigarette package-sized budget ($7,000 purportedly) prompts a high level of resourcefulness in a low concept vision of time travel.

The lads involved do a good job of creating a select group of smart talking and quick thinking engineers exploring new concepts on the theoretical horizon. They talk so much and so off-handedly about possibilities in quantum mechanics and physical phenomena as they go about their business in a garage-laboratory, that you can scarcely understand them. But, that's the idea. The impression of brilliance and dedication to science is all you have to take home at first. Confusion is part of the packaging.

So, it's credible that when Aaron (Shane Carruth--also writer and director) puts together a superconductive mechanism and when he and partner Abe (David Sullivan) cover it with a box and turn it on, that an object within it is changed in some drastic and never before seen way. But, is it a breakthrough?

The change in the object placed inside their machine is represented as a reduction in its apparent mass achieved by blocking gravitational pull. Understanding that much is one thing. Moving to a pragmatic or commercial use for it is another. The engineers proceed to experiment some more.

Jumping through several stages, they ultimately construct a time capsule which is capable of creating a version of the person within it to emerge in future time. That version can then determine what stocks moved the most so that the person in real time can place huge money-making stock market orders in time for the resulting gains to make them wealthy.

But, here's where the drama ends and a certain ineptness in story telling takes hold. The people versions in real time can see their alter egos of a prior time but dare not approach them. Why not? Does madness ensue? Since everything's so "scientific," what's the equation for two versions of a person meeting? Such questions not only leaves us baffled, they lead to pointlessness and the feeling that the writer was as confused as any of us.

Carruth, who also edited and scored the flick, seems to have gotten too lost in the dimensions of time to bring the narrative to a clear and meaningful climax. In the last act --or what serves as one-- he seems to be wandering in search of a way out of his box and enters the space warp of sci-fi breakdown. In the end, intelligence can't cap the too clever caper.

Count this good festival fare for like-minded and funded filmmakers and something with far less promise for the ticket-buying mainstream that will probably demand more manageable conceptualizing.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  




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