By Clint Fleener | April 13, 2004

A Google search on “Tito da Costa Awake” yields a result that takes you to the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group’s website. According to the specific link that appears from the search, Tito da Costa’s short film “Awake” “pushes Final Cut Pro creative abilities to the limit,” incorporating “complex composites and various” special effects. Costa’s film is about a woman who appears to have done something terrible while sleepwalking. Or, she has a fatter, slightly less attractive twin who is the tangible manifestation of her immoral thoughts.

The narrative scenario of “Awake” revolves around a man (Dave Bender) and a woman (Tiffany Ohanessian). He is up and going about his morning rituals while she is still in bed. Her eyes open now and then, but she isn’t fully awake yet. Until the moment she actually gets out of bed, images from her dreams are inserted into the visual plane. The pictures are distorted and even frightening. The rock music that plays on her radio alarm-clock morphs into Enya-on-drugs in her half-sleep state. When the woman finally awakens, she goes to the kitchen for a bagel and some coffee. Wearing a black slip and Goth-like makeup, she sits on the living room couch to consume her breakfast. As the spooky, ethereal music plays, the woman hears a leaky faucet. Of course, the dripping stops when she walks over to investigate. She finishes her food. The faucet recommences its rebellious behavior and the woman assaults the kitchen sink and a bathroom sink in an attempt to quiet them. Moments later, she stumbles upon a sickening scene.

Costa’s approach to capturing the woman in her environment is sophisticated in the sense that it’s well-designed. Whether it’s manipulating focus or shooting with a wide-angle lens or knowing when to apply a close-up, Costa successfully builds an atmosphere brimming with an unsettling energy. But, he’s possibly too skilled in this respect. When the woman makes that horrendous discovery, the combination of the music and the rapidly cut images gives you the impression that Tito da Costa ought to be directing the next music video for a hard-rock band that delights in the sight of blood. There’s nothing wrong with directing music videos. It’s just counter-intuitive that if one possesses this kind of aesthetic eye, one might fair better in a medium that still doesn’t give more credit to its directors (unless you’re Spike Jonze or Joseph Kahn).

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