Beautifully shot. Wonderfully executed. Utterly pointless. Well, not utterly. Close, though. If movies with no dialogue featuring people who look as odd as they act are your thing, then you’ve hit pay dirt. If you don’t really care about narrative and love short films that are open to interpretation – jackpot there, too! It doesn’t get much better than this.
What is this film about? Some sad-looking people live in a building that is subject to what appears to be routine bombings from the sky… maybe. The kids of the building are given musical instruments that they can’t really play. Some of them sing. Some of them sing quite well. An old man in the basement has some kind of heart possibly on loan from Iron Man and his constant pedaling on a stationary bike apparently supplies power to the entire building. I have a copy of the film synopsis which describes this as a story set in a “future-past world” that suffers from “perpetual war.” It goes on to say that preparations for a musical recital are underway as “only one thing holds the place upright.” That would be the Iron Man heart guy. Not exactly two different movies, but if you need the map you’re obviously lost.
This is the kind of thing snobby critics love to praise so they can elevate themselves above the commoners. The truth is, though, that this is a lovely looking movie which is done exceedingly well, but lacks any real soul. It gets an A for effort and execution, but a C- for narrative.
I do wish I liked this more. Director David Birnbaum obviously has enormous talent, and a lot of it is on display in this short film. I’d like to see him tackle this from a less surreal point of view, however, and go more for an actual cohesive storyline because I think he’d create something fascinating. I’ll draw the obvious comparison: When David Lynch combines his vision with an honest-to-gosh story you get Blue Velvet. When he lets his mind wander you get Lost Highway. This is Birnbaum’s Lost Highway — more an experience than an actual film, and if you like the experience (which I believe some will), you’ll be cursing its short length. It’s not exactly a no-win situation for the director, but it’s awfully close. It leaves viewers on both sides of the fence frustratingly unsatisfied, and that’s never a good thing.