Wednesday 30 November 2016

Spotlight on first-rate independent Canuck Cinema by female directors at the visionary Whistler Film Festival 2016 - THE DEATH (AND LIFE) OF CARL NAARDLINGER by Katherine Schlemmer - Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger (2016)
Scr/Dir. Katherine Schlemmer
Prod/Ed. Carl Laudan

Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward
Anand Rajaram, Beatriz Yuste, Ryan F. Hughes

Review By Greg Klymkiw

For a schlub who spends eight hours a day taking telephone complaints under the glare of fluorescent lights in a nondescript office-cum-hovel, the geeky, gawky Carl Naardlinger (Matt Baram) lives a very charmed life. With Pam (Grace Lynn Kung), a babe-o-licious, uber-real-estate-seller of a wife who loves him madly, this is a guy who seems to have it all. And so, he thinks he does, until his birthday celebrations are interrupted by a doorbell ring of fate. A detective (Anand Rajaram) has appeared at the front porch of the lovely suburban bliss of Chez Naardlinger to investigate a missing person's case. And just who's missing?

Carl Naardlinger, of course.

The only problem is that Carl is not missing. An even bigger problem, is that there appears to be someone bearing his unique appellate who is missing. Carl, should leave well enough alone, but he slowly becomes obsessed with investigating the disappearance of the other Carl Naardlinger (Mark Forward), a pudgy, schlubby baker who roomed with an almost insanely schlubby married couple (Beatriz Yuste, Ryan F. Hughes).

Oh, and to add to the morass, it appears as if the baker Naardlinger has a doppelgänger.

Katherine Schlemmer's sprightly directorial debut yields a queerly delightful comedy of coincidence which leads its characters and the audience on an odyssey into the very heart of what it means to be human in a seemingly apportioned world that, below its surface, roils with crises of identity. Much of the film is delivered by its superb cast in perfect deadpan, so much so, that at one point, when the film explodes into a volcano of mad, manic overlapping dialogue, the effect is as jolting as it is hilarious.

One of the fascinating elements of the film is that much of its running time is set within a ravine cutting its way through the cold, cement of the city and we get a real sense of two physical solitudes which mirror those of the emotional variety. This is both clever and oddly moving.

Given the importance of coincidence within the framework of the narrative, there is a point during the final third of the film where one wants the picture to soar into a kind of reverie that goes well beyond the simple coincidence of the story. It almost gets there when we follow one of the Naardlinger doppelgängers though a kind of natural fantasia amidst the greenery of the ravine. Reality, however, rears its head. This is hardly a flaw, though, as it forces us to soar on a completely new plane.

It defies expectations and if anything, this is what makes this delicious ugly duckling of a movie both loveable and irresistibly piquant.


The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger plays at the 2016 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.