Rumor has it that musician Bobby Beausolil, former member of the Manson family and opening act for The Byrds, buried his footage from Lucifer Rising somewhere in the California desert. More than 30 years after Kenneth Anger’s mesmerizing psychedelia extremis emerged from the splendiferous ether of its time, Patrick McGuinn, son of Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn, has made a film that looks as if it were dug out of the desert and set out to bake in the roasting sun. McGuinn’s fascination with Super-8 and the sense of longing it resonates is very apparent in this story about a writer, Teddy (John Ort), who’s driven to a desert retreat to work on his novel by his agent’s “nephew,” Leo (Gregory Marcel), a young man with haunting eyes and full lips whose ambiguous sexual identity tears Teddy apart. The story’s linearity soon collapses after a cheesy first-night tryst, sending a distraught Leo home and leaving Teddy considerably spurned. As memories and alternate realities begin to pile on top of each other it becomes clear that McGuinn is aspiring to something Lynchian: In one scene, Leo dreams of publishing the missing Teddy’s novel, sending it straight to The New York Times bestseller list; in another, he runs from Teddy’s arms outside their desert retreat to pick up Teddy’s bloodied corpse some distance away. This last scene is a two-pronged manifestation of Leo’s guilt—a reminder of the wife who may have been murdered years ago or who may still be waiting for him at home. Things only get pricklier and denser from there, but only this much is clear: that McGuinn’s startling ambition is greater than his capabilities. One scene, with Cheryl (Laura Leigh) confronting Leo about his sexuality, is an embarrassing succession of clichés that might have been written for Madonna (the scene is pretty much over as soon as she wails, “I don’t even know you!”). Marcel is wonderful, and the film boasts some stunning, almost alien visual textures, but the fine music by The Sea and Cake, like the frequent makeshift showers Teddy and Leo give each other outside (which feel like concessions to the Quad Cinema gay circuit), doesn’t jive with the story’s Persona-like philosophical pretenses. Watching the film, you get the ain’t-quite-right sense that a slab of clay intended for Bergman has been mistakenly shaped by an acolyte who should be setting his sights on watercolors.
- Wolfe Releasing
- 91 min
- Patrick McGuinn
- Patrick McGuinn
- John Ort, Gregory Marcel, George Stoll, Laura Leigh, Dyanne Asimov, Michael Hong, Josh Kanuck
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