There’s less than ten minutes left in James Noel’s feature film, Omadox, when protagonist Thomas Spoon (Edward Parker Bolman) proclaims in exasperation, “I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t know what’s going on, no one will tell me anything!” At that moment, Spoon is speaking as much for the film’s audience as he is for himself. His journey has been a mess of elements adding up to an indecipherable sum.
The most basic attempt at offering up a synopsis for this film would be to say that filmmaker Thomas Spoon has been hired by the Omadox Corporation to make a documentary about a man named John M. Circleton (John Fleck). Except Spoon seems to be interested in making a documentary about the mysterious Omadox, which deals in helium and, through a company split, has recently started an entertainment division. Oh, and originally Spoon was making a documentary about fish with golf balls for heads.
There’s also a light bulb inspector, who travels around with a small mystery box, complete with question mark label, inspecting light bulbs. And a “walking down a set of stairs” gag that is severely overused. Strange people with the heads of fish also make appearances, sometimes just looking creepy, other times dancing around. It’s an eclectic film, to say the least.
Not knowing the filmmaker’s definitive intention, whether the film is a sincere attempt at an experimental narrative or not, I do think the film works better as a subversive endurance challenge for an audience that might otherwise enjoy an experimental film. The references to a film festival where Spoon won an award tip the hat that maybe the filmmaker is trying to say something there, since by all signs in the film, Spoon is a pretty awful filmmaker. This coupled with the constant, seemingly random movements of the camera, the choice of a black and white aesthetic, the abuse of lighting and the inclusion of elements, such as a potato, seemingly for the hell of it, or because they might seem really strange in the context of the film, makes the film read like it was made by someone who was more interested in taking the piss out of experimental filmmaking, and mocking the audiences that claim to “get” it, than actually making a movie that says something.
And really, the climax cemented that idea for me. Without spoiling anything, when you consider all the techniques employed, all the moments that seem like they were lifted from a book entitled “Bad Experimental Movie Stereotypes,” and the running time (just shy of two hours), Omadox feels like a huge middle finger to the audience. It’s as if the filmmaker just brainstormed all the different ways one could torture an audience (often droning, sometimes dissonant and abrasive musical score that is consistently unnerving, check!) while pretending there’s a point, and chose to do that at every turn. Around the point where the film decides we now have to visit nine rooms in succession, even though a character states that the answers are to be found only in the final room, I actually said out loud, “You have to be joking. You’re fucking with me, aren’t you?” Which I can respect, because if this movie is anything but as I’ve described, then it’s not a subversive take on anything, it’s just really bad.
At best, Omadox is the type of film you inflict on other people, but I don’t know that I would suggest watching it yourself. At worst, it’s just a really nonsensical experimental film that relies far too much on what the filmmaker thinks an experimental film should look and sound like, but lacking the soul that makes those films actually work.
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