I first watched this film about two summers ago.
It was a strange narrative, in its own time and more excitingly and interestingly, in its own space. I didn't understand even a quarter of what was going on. I simply didn't get it. I thought about giving it up at least three times during the movie. It seemed to be one of those things that was absolutely beyond comprehension. And it just kept getting more and more convoluted, confusing, self-reflexive.
At some point, this guy yells at Caden, "It's been seventeen years! Are we ever getting an audience in here?" That's what I was thinking at the time. It didn't seem like a film that was meant to be for an audience. It seemed to want me to be in it, not outside it - it wasn't the kind of film that wanted me to figure out what was happening in it, it looked like it was trying to figure out what was happening to me. (At the same time, it also really didn't seem to care about me. So what if I didn't understand it? It just kept going.) At no time whatsoever did I have to opportunity to think - fucking brilliant! let's applaud!
I watched it again last night. I started watching it at 2 AM, considerably drunk and terribly sleepy. I don't know why I chose this film. (It was either this or Coraline.) It may have had something to do with wanting to fall asleep midway.
I didn't fall asleep. I stayed with it. I don't think I understand any of it even now.
See, it starts off as a regular film. It has all the elements of being a story, a simple plot, something you can just watch. There's a man, a woman and a child. They seem to be a dysfunctional sort of family, but which family isn't. Then she leaves him. And he gets some grant. He wants to do something big with it. Nothing suspicious yet. And then it starts getting bigger. She's painting miniatures, but he's building New York in a warehouse. He's building a warehouse within a warehouse within a warehouse. He has a double who has a double. The double falls in love with the original.
There's a man who's an actor playing himself - "Walk like yourself, Tom." "Wait! Let me show you, is this okay?"
This man has to be my favorite character. (After Olive, who I don't understand one bit). This man is my key to understanding the film. Not that I have, but if I have to, I think I'll start there. A man in a warehouse that's a theatre set (is it a set?) who's an actor playing himself - asking the director if that's the way the man walks.
And then there's Ellen. If the man who is an actor playing himself is my favorite character, Ellen has to be the most perplexing. Ellen is everything this film is. If the play had to be given a title, I'd have called it Ellen. Because at Ellen, I am lost. Because by the time we come to Ellen, the film has me holding on to the final threads of my seeming comprehension of the film's plot. Because Ellen, oh I don't even know what she is. Or he is. Or it is. Nobody's seen the Ellen that Ellen is playing. (Except in a painting by Adele.) But the actress playing Ellen is the perfect Ellen. Who then plays Caden. And then she becomes Caden. And Caden becomes Ellen, living in the warehouse, living by directions whispered into his ear.
I am resisting an urge to drawl deeeeeeep and roll my eyes.
But that's what the film is. Deep.
And if you understand it, we should sit down and talk about it.