Friday, September 08, 2017

Imitation Girl

There are two kinds of film festivals out there: The ones that are entirely about their main event and the ones that are so enthused about their love of film and getting people to see it that they are busy all year round. There are a couple of film festivals in the Boston area that fall in the first category just because they're stretched thin in terms of resources, and others that just awaken from their slumber when it's time to sell tickets. The best never seem to sleep, though, and I kind of wish both I and the Underground Film Festival folks did a bit more to publicize their monthly "Dispatches from the Underground" series - though it started out primarily as a way to catch shorts and the occasional feature audiences may have missed, it has lately been more and more about presenting things that they either didn't have room for or whose time on the festival circuit doesn't really align with a late-March festival.

That's a pretty crucial thing for the Underground festival - almost by definition, what they show just isn't going to get a highly visible release, either in theaters or even on VOD (Amazon really should have a newsletter about what's coming and going; I wonder if specialty places like Shudder do it better). Something like this series seems small - getting 30 people in a metro area the size of Boston's doesn't seem like much of an achievement - but it hopefully brings in enthusiastic people who will tell friends.

So, hey, friends, here's a review. It'll probably be some time before you get a chance to see it again, but when you do, I'll tell you it's a good one.

The only downside, really, is doing it in Somerville's micro, where the slope is shallow enough that I feel I have to sit in the front row to see the whole picture rather than heads and seat-backs. It's also worth mentioning that this is a very quiet film, with very little music and the dialogue seldom shouted, and it's easy for the squeaky chairs there to overpower it, especially since folks often tend to be kind of conservative with the sound in such a small room. I genuinely wonder if it the sound would have been better in a different seat.

Imitation Girl

* * * (out of four)
Seen 6 September 2017 in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema (Boston Underground Film Festival's Dispatches from the Underground, digital)

Calling Imitation Girl somewhat unformed is probably less hurtful than it would be for many other films; it is all about the experience of being unformed, or at least not as certain of oneself as one might like. It might be a bit more satisfying in certain ways if the end brought all the threads together in a more definitive way, but that would almost be like looking at the experience from afterward, rather than the middle.

This one starts in the New Mexico desert, where a wormhole opens up in the sky and something falls out, a black liquid that takes the shape of the model on the cover of a men's magazine. Not knowing the slightest thing about being human, she stumbles along, fortunately found by a friendly immigrant from Iran (Neimah Djourabchi), who brings her home and introduces her to his sister (Sanam Erfani). A quick study, the new girl picks up both English and Farsi fairly quickly, but doesn't seem to learn much more about the outside world or meet many other people. Meanwhile, in New York, the girl whose body the alien copied (Lauren Ashley Carter), is shooting another porn movie, and is honestly kind of bored with the whole thing. She's got a nice-enough boyfriend (Adam David Thompson) and just met a pretty nice girl (Marsha Stephanie Blake), but also seems very excited when her childhood piano teacher (Catherine Mary Stewart) suggests that she may be interested in the open auditions for the conservatory where she teaches.

So, what's it all about? It could be any of a lot of things or maybe even all of them. There's an intriguing idea about being a performer, especially a woman, where you send a sort of sexy shell out into the world and the people who encounter it fill it with their own ideas - it takes just a couple of fairly non-specific words from the duplicate after Saghi & Khahar talk about refugees for the audience to begin construction on a similar backstory for her - that the originator must eventually confront. "Julianna Fox" does a lot of "teen" fantasies, and there's a neat scene as she arrives for her audition and, confronted by kids who are authentically just getting out of high school, where she wipes off her makeup and it's not entirely clear whether in doing this she's becoming more herself or trying to play the more innocent student.

Full review on EFC.

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