By David Finkelstein | April 5, 2012

“Flamingos,” the latest film from underground filmmaker Antero Alli, consists of three interconnected emotional experiences. One story line is an extended conversation between glamorous ice-queen Beatrice and a somewhat bewildered attorney – Beatrice wants to divorce her husband Ray, whom she describes as a bank robber that steals money via hypnosis. The second tale finds Ray and Beatrice’s free-spirited twin sister Zoe hiding in a seedy motel following one of Ray’s successful heists. Their relation is raw and carnal, and the passion they share helps Zoe overlook Ray’s somewhat peculiar behavior (which includes a morphine addiction and idiosyncratic opinions on outer space).

The third offering, according to the filmmaker, involves “two enigmatic entities from the Bardo interzones” (a hooded man and a soot-skinned woman) that provide silent but all-knowing observations on the human dramas spinning around them. Their presence here initially seems accidental – one could imagine they fell out of another movie – but their place in the screenplay’s triptych schematic slowly becomes apparent as the film runs its course.

Alli challenges the viewer with the claustrophobic environments of the attorney’s office and the motel room. The dialogue rattles with emotional, financial, sexual and intellectual power struggles that become more desperate and demanding within their too-tight settings. The phantasmagoric Bardo sequences, in comparison, are astonishing for their physical vibrancy and unusual soundtrack. These sequences represent some of the most stylish visual and aural concepts from Alli’s distinctive canon.

Special praise is order for Madeline H.D. Brown’s remarkable double performance as the chilly Beatrice and earthy Zoe, Joe Estlack’s work as the extremely off-kilter bank robber, and Alaska Yamada’s uncommon energy as a Bardo denizen whose eerie presence is both disturbing and liberating. Alli, in addition to direction and screenplay, also handled camera, lighting and sound recording duties, which reconfirms his versatility as one of the most original film artists of our time.

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