J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rooftop Films ’14: The Infinite Man

Do not expect Somewhere in Time or any Rachel McAdams time travel film. An obsessive compulsive scientist will invent a means of jumping through time to win back his girlfriend, but he, or rather different versions of himself, will sabotage his efforts at every turn. The time paradoxes will compound massively and it will all be his collective fault in Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man (trailer here), which screens this Friday, summer-style under the stars, as part of the 2014 season of Rooftop Films.

Dean probably loves Lara too much. For their anniversary, he takes her back to the tucked away motel where they spent their last anniversary, intent on recreating every last detail. Unfortunately, the motel has since been shuttered, throwing quite a spanner in the works. Lara also resents his habitual need to plan and relive the past. Initially, she tries to be a good sport, but when her crude ex-boyfriend crashes the party, the festivities completely bottom out. Through an odd chain of events, the miffed Lara ends up leaving with Terry the hothead.

For an entire year, Dean holes up at the abandoned inn, licking his wounds and perfecting his time travel device. On the day of their former anniversary, Dean convinces Lara to go back in time with him, so they can undo their past mistakes. Of course, this is easier said than done. In fact, Dean will make this trip several times, as he struggles to win Lara back from other versions of himself.

Infinite is a little slow out of the blocks, but it has to establish at least one straight lap around Dean’s year at the motel, before it starts turning everything inside out. Once it gets going, it’s off to the races. With each successive go-round, Sullivan completely changes the context of every scene, showing us what is now also happening simultaneously outside our prior field of vision.

It is an exceedingly clever screenplay that required very little special effects, beyond the trick photography allowing Dean to talk to other Deans. Still, the basic choreography determining who goes where when is rather impressive.

Frankly, Josh McConville is so cringey as Dean, it pushes viewers away during the set-up rather than pulling us in. Still, he creates a distinctively neurotic portrait and doggedly stays in character. He also has some very effective scenes playing with and off himself, so to speak. Hannah Marshall is a good sport as Lara, nicely maintaining the ambiguities in each scene while staying in the (ever recurring) moment. Although it is a small role, Alex Dimitriades brings several shots of energizing madness to the film as Terry.

Infinite is not quite as wildly entertaining as Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes but it constructs a similarly dazzlingly complex time-bender narrative, with hardly any visible seams. Richly inventive, it is smart science fiction rendered on a very human scale. Recommended with enthusiasm, The Infinite Man screens Friday night (5/23) in Gowanus, Brooklyn, presented by Rooftop Films.

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