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USA 2004
Directed by
Shane Carruth
77 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars


Synopsis: At night and on weekends, four young men in a suburban garage are building devices out of spare parts. Two realize they have the beginnings of a time machine that can perhaps be a means to get whatever they want, at a possible price.

Aaron: Are you hungry? I haven't eaten since later this afternoon.

Director Shane Carruth made this mind-bending, Sundance Festival award-winning, 77 minutes with about $10,000. You'll also find his name in the credits under writer, actor, cinematographer, producer, editor, composer, sound designer, production designer and casting manager. It's an impressive one-man effort for someone who taught themselves film and the tight flow of dialogue and ideas hold the attention, even if the destination might be unclear. Might be, for I confess I'm not really sure what it's about.

Four guys are struggling to come up with an invention that will shoot them out of their garages into the big-time. Two of them build a rudimentary time machine intending to make a quick buck. But as the time-travel paradoxes start to multiply, causality gets confused and so did I. This is partly because the dialogue is often tongue-twisting conjecture about physics and metaphysics, and partly because my screening had muffled sound. Repeated viewings would pay off - the film is a mélange of possible interpretations, like other popular cinematic puzzles (Memento, anyone?). This makes full comprehension most cost-effective if you wait for the DVD, and even then it might be impossible.

Abe: Aaron, I can imagine no way in which this thing could be considered anywhere remotely close to safe. All I know is I spent six hours in there and I'm still alive.... You still want to do it?

Perhaps this is the cinema verité of guerilla science-fiction. Should we really expect to understand what four whiz-kids are babbling about? Or should we just sit back and appreciate as far as possible the ideas and conundrums forming, even if slightly indistinctly, before us? For some, the story will be about nifty gadgets and ideas, for others it will be about men trying to save what is precious to them.

Visually, the 16mm filmwork is reminiscent of the raw strengths of low-budget successes that have come before. That is, it's a mixture of high-style and just-getting-the-job-done. The intermingling relationships are the real strength, with the men and their families in an intense web of friendships and jealousies. And once people start moving backwards in time, they have their original selves to contend with as well. By the end, who knows who's who or when's when?

I haven't seen anything so obtuse for ages, but I liked what I saw.




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