Here’s a flick that defies all expectations. Advance descriptions reveal only part of the story. This much is true: Our hero Jimmy (Adam Trese) is a photographer with more talent than work. To support his dancer wife, Maria (Ariadna Gil), he takes a job as a crime scene photographer. The shock of documenting murder scenes takes its toll. Jimmy reacts by getting deeper into his work, and getting unnecessarily artistic with his “subjects” once he’s alone with the bodies.
Now I had expected some kind of Lynchian tale of one man’s descent into madness. Nuh-uh. Jimmy gets involved with two crooked homicide detectives played by Cully Fredricksen and V.J. Foster. The descent into hell soon becomes a journey through a Michæl Mann film dissecting the relationships of ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances. What we really have is a nuanced crime film with some colorful personalities. It’s not quite what I expected.
Let me comment writer/director Hamlet Sarkissian for this: if you didn’t know this was an independent film, you’d never know by the production values that it didn’t come out of a studio. The cinematography is fantastic. Forsaking the over-photographed west side, all of the film occurs in the far more urban downtown Los Angeles and just east of there. This L.A. is barely distinguishable from New York or San Francisco.
The cast is amazing. I hadn’t remembered Adam Trese from his other films but most of the cast has little else on their resumes. Cully Fredricksen walks and talks like a taller, balder John Glover. V. J. Foster looks like Joe Spinell from the “Godfather” movies. Gil is stunning in a part where she has to do most of the emoting in a relationship with the distant Jimmy.
“Camera Objscura” is more “Heat” than “Eraserhead”. It’s all good. Just don’t be disappointed if it’s not what you were expecting. Try to enjoy this for what it is.