Wednesday, April 23, 2014

+1 (2013): The Insanity of Unchecked Sci-Fi

+1 (2013)
dir: Dennis Iliadis

The phenomenon of Deja Vu is always fascinating. But, what if you actually have been there before? And, what if you got a second chance to fix the things you have wanted to fix? +1, the horrifically titled new movie from IFC Midnight, asks us some of these questions, but doesn't really care about the answers.

The concept of +1 is an original one. As an alien meteor crosses overhead, it disrupts the circuits of the Earth causing phase shifts in the fourth dimension. Whenever there's an electrical outage, suddenly there appears another copy of you in the place you were at a set distance in time. At one point, it's about 30-45 minutes in the past. And, with each turn, the phase shift gets shorter and shorter.

All of this is set at a rich kid's rave party at the start of summer vacation. David has just screwed up his relationship with Melanie because he misidentified another girl with the same fencing braid and Melanie found him kissing her. David, Teddy, and Allison all go to the rave thrown by their mutual friend, as does Melanie and a new boy toy. After Teddy hooks up with a girl, and David screws up his chances with Melanie, the first phase shift occurs putting a copy of everybody 30 minutes in the past.

Which leads to questions. What do you do when you find a copy of yourself? Can you fix the past? Can you get the girl back? What do these copies want? What the hell is this movie about?

+1 never really answers any of these questions with any amount of satisfaction. In fact, +1 is really intent on playing with your expectations for a solid explanation and any sense of moral justice. Instead of presenting a story with strong moral grounds and a cohesive conclusion, Iladis merely is presenting us a night where the answers aren't given, morals aren't learned, and nobody is any better or worse by the end of the night. Well, unless they're dead.

+1 has a sort of nihilistic take no prisoners attitude that is so refreshing and maddening in equal measures. Isn't a movie better when nobody changes? Is it more realistic, even though it is a movie about phase shifting? +1 highlights humanities worst tendencies when confronted with fear and an other. And, it goes batshit crazy as well.

I do mean batshit crazy. And, no I'm not spoiling it. But, to say that +1 flies off the rails early and often is understatement. As Joe Bob Briggs would have said, "Anything can happen at any time."

What makes +1 worth watching is that Iliadis handles the crazy with a master's hand at pacing. Once the movie hits the party, the movie knows exactly what the pacing should be for the specific hits to let the audience process, even if it is processing nothing but air. The pacing builds and builds until a rip roaring climax that is amazing.

Iliadis is heavily assisted by Mihai Malaimare Jr, a cinematographer who started as a Francis Ford Coppola protege who worked on each of Coppola's previous three films and most recently was the 70mm director of photography for P.T. Anderson's The Master. If you've seen The Master, you know how gorgeous Malaimare's work is, but here the camera is alive and electric.

Malaimare doesn't let the image go less than full bore saturation for one second. The screen is almost oversaturated in a way that makes you feel like you've taken a tab of LSD or Ecstasy. Everything is bright, electric and lush, all hitting your eyeballs in ways that you've not experienced before, appropriate for a rave party movie. Iliadis opens the movie with a camera pan over lush red roses, and they're redder than red. But, while it is oversaturated, it's never garish as Showgirls tended to be. This is a full spectrum movie which will blow your mind.

While +1 is a rather empty headed calling card of a sci-fi film, the actual craziness within combine with amazing pacing and visuals to create a toxic heady concoction that is far better than it deserves to be. It's imminently rewatchable because of the human story. The acting is good enough, though rarely anything to write home about. +1 an imminently weird and brilliant film that feels as filling as the techno song you were just dancing to for 8 minutes while high at that rave that one time, that sort of goes doof doof.

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