Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
For the Plasma: Speculative Micro-Budget Mumble-Nothing
when the Wall Street Journal’s dart
board regularly outperformed the professional stock-pickers? At least that is
how we like to remember it. If theoretical blind monkeys hurling darts can pick
winners, why not the trees of Maine? How would they do that? A researcher
pretends to explain it all in Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan’s For the Plasma (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
has invited her old friend Charlie to help her manage an evolving research
project. Initially, Helen’s job was to watch for forest fires through the
closed circuit monitors conveniently located in her turn-of-the-century country
home. So much for the old ranger’s observation tower. Over time, the monotony
of staring at the same images repeatedly started to warp her perspective.
However, she discovered if she switched her mental focus to the global financial
markets while taking in visions of Maine’s verdant forests, she could detect statistically
significant trends. Does that make any sense?
Hell no it doesn’t, but Bryant & Molzan stick with it anyway.
reasons that are murky at best, Helen dispatches Charlie (evidently Bryant
& Molzan don’t think women don’t need last names in Maine) to do on-site
inspections of the trees that catch her attention. As a bit of kookiness, there
are helpful frames hanging in the woods to define Helen’s field of vision for
Charlie and the audience. They could be intriguing visuals, but Bryant &
Molzan never really do anything with them.
is true of just about everything remotely interesting in Plasma. Bryant & Molzan just assume they have an intriguing
premise that will keep people hooked and then proceed to play keep-away with
it. A Walk in the Woods had more
narrative drive and truth-in-titling than this mumblecorish exercise in
cinematic hipsterdom. Of course, they also suggest Helen and Charlie’s relationship
was always problematic, allowing it to quickly fray. Why is it movies have such
a problem portraying healthy friendships between grown women?
any event, Rosalie Lowe and Anabelle LeMieux are suitably somnambulistic as
Helen and Charlie, respectively. Tom Lloyd is either brilliant or ghastly embarrassing
as Herbert the nutty lighthouse keeper, but you’re on your own deciding which.
Either way, we can appreciate how he livens things up a bit.
Intimidated critics will heap laurels on Plasma and belittle detractors for “misunderstanding”
the film, but there is no there there. There is no internal system of logic to
carry us away and absolutely no attempt to raise higher philosophical issues. Telling,
the best scene gives a partial cliff notes’ cribbing of Kobo Abe’s The Ark Sakura, but that only reminds us
of the exponential superiority of a film like Teshigahara’s The Face of Another. At the end of the
day, the film just has a lot of walking in the woods to show for itself. Not
recommended, For the Plasma opens
this Friday (7/22) in New York, at Anthology Film Archives.