Wednesday, 25 March 2015

NOCTURNE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepy Canuck Thriller needs agood, clean shave.

Nocturne (2014)
Dir. Saul Pincus
Starring: Mary Krohnert, Knickoy Robinson, Laytrell McMullen, Andrew Church, Celine LePage, Ian Downie, Marcia Bennett

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When we first meet Cindy (Mary Kronhert), we think she's an inmate in an asylum. Several extreme closeups revealing a pencil etching bizarre doodles, papers and file folders tumbling from a desk, a cardboard cup of coffee tipped over with its contents cascading through the drinking hole in the plastic lid, more sounds of pencil scratchings, no doodles now, just numbers entered tentatively upon a ledger, beautiful, but oddly cloudy green eyes, at first lit, as if in a dream, by what appears to be candlelight, then another ECU of the same eyes at a different time and place, awash with the same fluorescent glow prior to the dream shot, pensive looks, no movement save for the eyes, this way and that, then finally an over the shoulder POV through a window and revealing sterile industrial carpeting, office furniture, yellow sticky notes.

No, we're not in an asylum, but we (as well as Cindy) might as well be. Even though no windows appear in the space to reveal the time of day, we feel like it's deep night. If anything, it appears we're in an office devoted to data entry and no other humans, save for that of young, handsome Armin (Knickoy Roninson) at a desk, as if in a trance.

They're both in a trance-like state. Cindy is an insomniac. Armen is a somnambulist. As Robert Wiene proved in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, his horrific masterpiece of German Expressionism, somnambulism is super-creepy. If you happen to see a sleepwalker, though, it's impossible to keep your eyes off of them. This is exactly what happens to Cindy. She follows Armen out into the deep night of Toronto, a Toronto that has only looked as malevolent through the eyes of a very few - David Cronenberg, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Atom Egoyan and now, it seems, through the eyes of Nocturne's director, editor, producer and co-writer Saul Pincus.

For its first 45-50 minutes, Nocturne is positively spellbinding and you can't take your eyes off the screen. Mostly, we're following Cindy as she follows the sleepwalking Armen. At one point, she takes him back to her place. She's picked up a mess of groceries. Armen seems to have a sleeping predilection for shoving food down his gullet and rather than allow him to do it outdoors and in late night variety stores, he's seated at Cindy's massive dinner table and allowed to chew, munch, slurp and drool to his heart's content.

Cindy feels comfortable enough to remove all her clothing and sit naked at the table with him, uttering gentle sweet nothings such as this eminently, brilliantly and hilarious line of dialogue:

"I like carrots too. They're my favourite."

So long as Pincus keeps us in a strange, dreamy, expressionistic and even a somewhat cerebral Land of Waking Nod, we're convinced, thanks to the masterful visuals, a few first-rate performances (the camera especially loves leading lady Kronhert and there's a knock you on your butt piece of acting from child performer Laytrell McMullen), a mega-queer soundscape, strangely perverse dialogue, occasional cuts that are so breathtaking they feel almost orgasmic, and yes, even a series of haunting animated images, then we do feel that we might be plunged into masterpiece territory.

Alas, as the narrative slowly unravels into a kind of pseudo-Hitchockian mystery, we get a sinking feeling. It's the same feeling I started to get when I first saw Cronenberg's Dead Ringers and the narrative began to place far too much emphasis upon the ingestion of drugs. My response started to be along the lines of, "Oh God, is that all this is?" I started to feel exactly the same way during Nocturne as soon as it became apparent that an elaborate corporate conspiracy and "mere" deadly blackmail scheme was at work instead of, what? Well, to borrow the tagline used upon the original release of David Lynch's Eraserhead, "a dream of dark and troubling things." As long as Nocturne keeps plunging us into a similar world of nightmare and dream logic, a world of sleeplessness and waking sleep, then and only then do we feel like we're in the rare vicinity of a true Master.

Pincus even accomplishes the rare feat of taking us into the light of day and still making us feel like we're in the dark. It's too bad that the light also reveals something far more mundane, far too mainstream and tidy. And then, that the film eventually becomes interminable, running far too long and overstaying its welcome to unspool at a length of just shy of two hours, the movie begins to fall short of its considerable potential.

It's no matter, though. Pincus displays dazzling virtuosity as a filmmaker.

By the time the movie ends, whatever misgivings one might have, it's clear that he's the real thing and that he possesses a unique and strong voice. I'm already breathlessly anticipating his followup picture.

Let's just hope he doesn't feel the need to let the plot get in the way next time.


Nocturne is playing at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto.