Monday, October 13, 2008

Eden Log at French Cinema Now Festival

October 11, Clay Theatre, French Cinema Now, presented by the San Francisco Film Society.  

Warning:  Contains spoilers.

A rare opportunity to catch an amazing new French sci-fi thriller, narratively structured after video games.  First time director Franck Vestiel creates a dystopian environment in muted monochromatic tones of gray sludge.  Eden Log owes a great deal to Fritz Lang's Metropolis in its above ground / underground dichotomy.  Unlike Metropolis, Eden Log only slowly begins to make sense, and takes place nearly entirely below the surface.  What is refreshing is the revolution in narrative structure.  Vestiel abandons Hollywood three or four act narrative conventions and adheres to video game structure, replete with levels of Eden Log being clearly labeled as we ascend, and even a defeat-the-boss climax.  Frequent blackouts, first introduced in a jarring opening sequence, frame the structure clearly.  Fade to black is used consistently as a way to advance the narrative.  Once we "come to," we may either be on a new level, or have escaped some danger, or landed in a new predicament.  This keeps the story moving and allows a great sense of unpredictability.

Another interesting facet of the film is original music by Seppuku Paradigm, a series of ambient electronic atmospheres, textures, and washes.  (Not like the obvious music in the trailer below.)  It's a welcome break in the expected horror score genre.  The look and sound of the film has garnered Vestiel comparisons to Aronofsky.  And despite the intensely stylized look, there's a more than a hint of low budget in its tiny, claustrophobic sets, chain-link fences, loose plastic tubes, and gray slather.   The film does not rely heavily on digital effects, and given the story concept, they are scarcely needed, again a pleasant break from today's sci-fi filmmaking. 

Eden Log, especially on the big screen, gives the excitement of having seen something really new.  It is now on DVD.

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