About memory, cyberpunk godfather William Gibson said, “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” In Ian Stewart Fowler’s vexing yet engrossing new feature, Crazy Right, the ravings of a grieving widow – who may be guilty of a terrible crime – provide the director with an ample canvas to plumb the nature of memory; how it can be shaped by trauma; warped by guilt, and muddied by alcoholism.
From its first few shots – punctuated by unorthodox camera angles, a soundtrack seemingly piped in from a time-worn music box, and a natural lighting scheme populated by washed-out pastels, Crazy Right immediately thrusts the viewer into a shifting, disquieting atmosphere that is the protagonist’s psyche. Immersed in an old cast iron tub drink in hand, Paul is clearly mourning a loss of some kind. In the grips of some inescapable fever dream, he has visions of his wife Iris spitting contradictory statements at him: that she never understood him; he never gave her a chance; he was a pussy who let her cheat on him.
“…he has visions of his wife Iris spitting contradictory statements at him…”
A knock on the door by an estate sales agent rouses Paul from his hypnotic state. As the agent inventories the spartan possessions in the house, he asks Paul if he can be let into the shed to check out its contents. Paul, a prisoner of his own mind it seems, responds that he doesn’t go outside anymore. What exactly happened to so totally unmoor him remains unclear and unrevealed.
This mystery only deepens when Paul unearths an old walkman and a cache of audio tapes. Using the tape player like some sort of spiritual medium, he begins having conversations – real or imagined – with Iris, a woman we learn is his deceased wife. He is interrupted by a visit from his friend Garry who is concerned with Paul’s mental health. “I’ve been thinking and I think…I can’t remember,” Paul remarks and then twist the encounter on its axis, accusing Garry – seemingly without happenstance – of sleeping with his wife. Alone once again, Paul’s hallucinations deepen. With shades of Spike Jones’ Her and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Paul’s grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. “You’re a delusion in my head!,” he screams at one point to the walkman, But the conversations with the disembodied voice of Iris become increasingly more unhinged and his alcohol consumption increases. He begins having more visceral flashbacks (or, perhaps, they are premonitions) in which he speaks with, makes love to, showers with, reminisces and argues with her. Garry reappears this dream state, Iris at his side, to stage an intervention to disastrous effect. As the camera swoops and tilts, further throwing the viewer off balance, accusations of murder, adultery, illness, and neglect – all of which are contradicted moments later. “Baby, you are delusional,” Iris says. “Nothing that you remember is the way that it happened.” I must admit that I was, at this point, growing both frustrated and impatient with the film – much like I felt watching the end of Angel Heart before Satan’s big reveal at the end. Ultimately, a truth (the truth?) of exactly what happened to Iris and Paul’s innocence/complicity is shown in punishing detail.
“…crafting a film that tries to pin down the slippery nature of one man’s truth…”
While the experience of watching Crazy Right proved at times both dizzying and rather self-indulgent, I do commend the filmmakers for crafting a film that tries to pin down the slippery nature of one man’s truth as it slides through his vodka-soaked consciousness. There’s a lot to unpack in this film – both cinematically and narratively; for example, in naming Paul’s wife Iris, is director/writer Stewart further commenting on our ways of seeing or is it simply a moniker. The fact that I was still thinking about the film and it’s dissection of truth and memory long after it was over is, to my mind, is one of the hallmarks of an effective piece of storytelling. As I reflected on the film, the opening line to Queen’s most well-known song, Bohemian Rhapsody, echoed in my mind: “Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?” To Stewart’s credit, the answer feels tantalizingly out of reach.
Crazy Right (2017) Directed by Ian Stewart Fowler. Starring Patrick D. Green, Lindsae Klein, Dennis Fitzpatrick, Michael Draper, and Ian Stout.
3 out of 5 stars