For those who actively loathe experimental cinema, please avoid James Fotopoulos’ “Christabel” at all costs. And for those who actively love experimental cinema…well, the same advice applies.
“Christabel” is billed as a “loose adaptation of the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.” If this adaptation was any looser, it would fall off the screen. Coleridge’s haunting yet unfinished text is presented here as a muck of overlapping images of two young women, distorted sounds, some kind of noise which may or may not be music, and occasional slices of Coleridge’s poem read in a muffled, barely audible voice. Every now and then, a nude woman walks across the screen and the camera focuses on her breasts…perhaps in tribute to the pleasure domes of another Coleridge poem.
The “Christabel” press kit (which is, strangely, more entertaining than the film) promises a “film drenched in sexual imagery” and promisesthat “Fotopoulos boldly focuses on iconic images of the women themselves, rather than on their actions or the narrative as it unfolds between them.” While I didn’t need to towel myself off from being “drenched in sexual imagery” (the women spend most of their time bickering and making faces at the camera), the press kit didn’t fail in promising a film without action or narrative.
This plotless, pointless 74-minute endurance test offers absolutely nothing which could even vaguely or charitably be defined as art, imagination or stimulation.
James Fotopoulos is a wildly prolific young filmmaker who created four features and 21 shorts in the past nine years. If “Christabel” is any indication, he might need a long vacation before resuming work on his next film.