Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Frequencies: Future Destinies Deferred
a name conveys a child’s future potential then Marie-Curie Fortune’s is indeed
apt. Conversely, Isaac Newton Midgely is more of a Midgely than a Newton. The
slogan of their near futuristic world is “knowledge is destiny,” but in practice
your bio-metric “frequency” really determines your lot in life. Midgely will
try to alter his hard-coded destiny in Darren Paul Fisher’s Frequencies (a.k.a. OXV: The Manual, trailer here), which opens in
New York this Friday, hitting iTunes the day before.
of like The Force or just plain luck, one’s frequency measures how well you fit
into the world around you. Someone with a high frequency is never late or
klutzy. Everyone responds to them positively. However, Fortune’s abnormally high
frequency almost entirely crowds out her capacity for emotions. In contrast, Midgely
is a genius, but he has a negative frequency. Whenever they meet at school,
sparks fly, much in the manner of matter encountering anti-matter. Things
become so chaotic a sixty second limit is imposed on their presumably random
meetings. Of course, Midgely happens to be smitten with Fortune, who sort of
leads him on, out of scientific curiosity and a lack of empathy.
forward to adulthood, we find Midgely still has not gotten over Fortune, but he
may have developed a means of moderating frequencies, with the help of his old
school chum, Theodor Adorno Straus. By lowering her frequency, Fortune is
finally able to take pleasure from life. She even thinks she has fallen in love
with Midgely, but when the nature of Straus’s breakthrough device becomes
apparent, all bets are off.
decent genre films are built around a good gimmick, but become increasingly conventional
as they progress. Frequencies is the
rare film that begins with an intriguing Macguffin, the social predetermination
of frequencies and Midgely’s attempt to change them, but morphs it into something
even bigger and archetypal, uniting science fiction and fantasy, while raising
the stakes for everyone.
post-Tarantino, temporal shifts are annoyingly over-used and often
distractingly unnecessary, but Fisher’s triptych structure heightens the
significance of each big revelation. This is a film with genuine logical
integrity that fits together remarkably well. Those familiar with the Marxist sociologist
Adorno’s boneheaded criticism of jazz might have a leg up discerning his
namesake character’s ultimate significance. Regardless, Frequency’s combination of social science fiction and philosophical
inquiry set it worlds apart from most star-crossed love stories.
the teen-aged Fortune and Midgely, Georgina Minter-Brown and Dylan Llewellyn
give remarkably assured performances. Although we cannot properly call it
chemistry (given the circumstances), they way they play off each other totally
pulls the audience in. Fortunately, they have nearly as much screen time as
their adult counterparts, who are the film’s real weak link. Their drab lack of
charisma might make sense in the case of Daniel Fraser’s Midgely, but it leads
to credibility problems in the case of Eleanor Wylde’s Fortune. Fortunately,
some key supporting players help carry them, especially David Broughton-Davies
as the mysteriously wise Mr. Straus. Keep your eye on him.
It would be spoilery to explain why, but Frequencies is also a wonderful valentine
to classical music. Smart and engaging, it is one of those inventive science
fiction films that have no need of splashy effects or fancy set pieces.
Instead, it relies on the power of its ideas (how novel). Highly recommended
for science fiction fans and musicians, Frequencies
opens this Friday (5/23) at the Cinema Village and will be available from
iTunes on Thursday.
Labels: British Cinema, Sci-Fi films