It seems that in the age of CGI blockbusters, the low-budget highbrow dramas, lowbrow horror/sci-fi schlock, and the slow-building art film has fallen into a dark corner to be forgotten. Newer films like Night Pulse and The God Inside My Ear, for all their artistic imagery, draw more from a frenetic instantaneous social media mindset than David Lynch, Robert Altman or Alejandro Jodorowsky. Before launching his billion dollar Star Wars franchise, George Lucas debuted with THX-1138, a horrific dystopian science fiction vision that owed much to Japanese films and the French New Wave, while Stanley Kubrick let stories gradually unfold through sequences of striking visuals. In this tradition, director Casey T. Malone delivers his visually stunning new film.
Lesser Beasts flows like a moving photo-novel. Shot primarily in black and white, every single frame exists as an autonomous beautiful image, propelling the story while speaking volumes on its own. As director and cinematographer (as well as many other hats), Malone’s composition excels beyond everything that was nominated for an Oscar last year, or in recent memory, for that matter. Films just aren’t this beautifully shot anymore.
“…it is the realization of their reality that will set them free or doom them forever.”
Malone provides the soundtrack as well. An impressive work in its own right, his score recalls the ambient work of Brian Eno, perfect for the background but captivating upon closer listening. This music could be released with a booklet of stills from the film and it would be an equally powerful work of art.
The story? Well, that’s where things get a little hazy at first, though the plot becomes more clear upon multiple viewings. In an undetermined place that seems slightly futuristic, a young woman who has just been found after a long disappearance, a steampunk street performer, a tech hermit and the proprietor of a light and clock store unwittingly find themselves at the core of something ominous and ancient. Though they remain strangers, their stories interlock to reveal a global conspiracy that has made them pawns to a sinister hierarchy. Ultimately, it is the realization of their reality that will set them free or doom them forever.
That, of course, is just a simple interpretation of a much more complicated plot that may not be understood the first time around. Typically, it shouldn’t take three or more viewings to grasp the basic story of a film, but with such astounding photography and incredibly strong performances from all involved, it’s well worth the effort.
In Lesser Beasts, Casey T. Malone has produced a science fiction art film that not only ranks with the greats, he practically made it by himself with no money. That alone is worth attention.
Lesser Beasts (2018) Directed by Casey T. Malone. Written by Casey T. Malone. Starring Anieya Walker, Alice Wilson, Josh P. Bryan, Mario Andre Alberts, Kerric Stephens, Randy Allen, and Michelle Hackett.
8 out of 10 stars