Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tentacle 8: Microbudget Conspiracy Myth-Making
is something uniquely tragic about conspiracy theory-mongers, who cannot
understand why the world refuses to acknowledge the shadowy connections they see
in the raft of coincidences they desperately cling to. Fictionalized treatments
of their murky theories have the advantage of only requiring compelling narratives
rather than bourgeoisie “proof.” Unfortunately, there is still not a lot of
substance for us to process in John Chi’s microbudget paranoia trip, Tentacle 8 (trailer here), which opens this
Thursday in New York.
Berry is a super-secret cryptographer and computer programmer, working
undercover at a used bookstore, where he slips top secret correspondence to
Tabitha Lloyd, a CIA field op, with whom he is secretly romantically linked.
During the initial half hour of non-sequiturs, we also watch as tech start-up
guru Rolland Towne is forced out of his company and the suits at the NSA go into
full CYA mood when a data breach is discovered.
Berry is renditioned off to someplace more hush-hush than Guantanamo for some
enhanced interrogation, until he is sprung by a mutual friend of the shadowy Mitchell,
a long-vanished station chief who may or may not be involved with Tentacle 8, a
fifth column organization buried within the intelligence establishment. Or
something like that—who’s to say for sure?
be fair, Chi will eventually lash these strands together in some fashion, but
he takes several awkward narrative leaps to get there. Of course, the
needlessly confusing flashback structure does not do any favors for narrative
clarity either. To make matters even worse, he exploits the September 11th
terrorist atrocities in the rather baffling conclusion. Everyone has a right to
hold their own conspiracy theories as articles of faith, but they should have
the decency to respect other people’s tragedies.
the narrative confusion (both deliberate and unintentional), T8’s ensemble is surprisingly
professional. As a result, they often seem quite credible, while making ridiculous
statements. In fact, as Berry and Lloyd, Brett Rickaby and Amy Motta (who both
have an extensive list of television credits) are shockingly compelling in a
number of key scenes together.
Running a tad past the two hour mark, T8 feels excessively long, yet it seems
to be missing scores of establishing scenes. There is no question where the
responsibility lays. Frankly, if Chi is worried about intrusive government surveillance
and data mining (which are legitimate concerns), he should forgo further
filmmaking and volunteer for Rand Paul (who really is the only candidate who
will curtail such practices). Well-acted, but poorly constructed and ploddingly
paced, Tentacle 8 is safely skippable
when it opens this Thursday (6/18) at Anthology Film Archives. Why is it
opening now when it is already available on DVD? It is all part of the master
plan, which includes a VOD launch on the 25th and availability on
IndieFlix sometime in July.
Labels: Conspiracy Cinema