Saturday, July 16, 2016

Strangeness reigns, as Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan's FOR THE PLASMA opens at AFA

If you're a sucker for movies that tease and provoke but barely fulfill, FOR THE PLASMA, a new head-scratcher from Bingham Bryant (writer, producer,co-director/co-editor) and Kyle Molzan (co-director, co-editor, sound recording) might just be your cup of sugar-free kool-aid. The situation: A young woman shows up, evidently invited, at the New England home of a friend she's not seen for some time, for a visit and to give that friend a little help with her work. What that work actually is becomes the mystery, MacGuffin and driving force of this bizarre-but-frustrating moviegoing experience.

The filmmakers (shown at left, with Mr. Bryant on the right) have set up a wonderfully peculiar situation in which the "work" done by one of the women we meet is so strange (and so very poorly defined by both the character, who explains it to her friend, and by the dialog itself) that any normal response would go something like, "Wait: Say that all again, and this time make some sense, please." Instead, the friend accepts it all with what amounts to a shrug, and we're off the races. And no, I don't mean the horse races; this is more like the turtle races.

Still, the situation is so bizarre that we stick around, if only to find out what the hell is actually going on. Before we do (which turns out to be mostly a "don't"), we're sucked into a scenario that encompasses everything from solitude and paranoia to friendship, employment, conspiracy, surveillance and New England nuttiness in extremis.

The movie, which was shot on 16mm film, looks very good, and the performances of the two leading ladies -- newcomer Anabelle LeMieux (above) and Rosalie Lowe (below, left) -- are kept as close to the vest as can be imagined. We learn very little about either character, and what we do learn seems more at the service of a screenplay that asks for far too much suspension of disbelief than one that wants to create full and actual characters.

That "work" that is being done in the woods near the house in which our two ladies live is certainly interesting, even if, after a lot of mumbo-jumbo that ranges from talk of spotting incipient fires to visual "mapping" (three photos above) to oddball Asians or maybe possible aliens on the loose (the title phrase is mentioned in passing but never elaborated upon), we are no closer to understanding it than we were at the film's beginning.

Meanwhile we meet a few townspeople, primarily a lighthouse keeper with what appears a very slight hold on reality (or anything else). The most interesting part of the movie are the visuals of that work project in the woods, in which nature is "framed" quite nicely, as below.

And the ending does have a kind of come-full-circle quality that may please. Otherwise, the film is for those who demand originality and mystery at the expense of a few other qualities -- sense and believabilty among them -- that make movie-watching pleasurable for some of us.

From Factory 25 and running too long even at 94 minutes, For the Plasma opens in New York City this Thursday, July 21, at Anthology Film Archives; on Friday, July 29, in Chicago at Facets Cinematheque; and will play Tuesday and Wednesday,  August 2 and 3, in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Photo, second from top, of the 
co-directors is by Robin Holland.

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