THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Winstar has been releasing a constant stream of independent productions whose theatrical runs have pretty much ended at the film fest circuit.
(Some others that I've reviewed have been Charming Billy, Desolation Angels, and Idiot Box) Trans (1999) seems the most unusual of the bunch so
Sort of a cross between Jim Jarmusch and Harmony Korine, Trans follows Ryan Kazinski (Ryan Daugherty) as he escapes
a Florida juvenile detention center. After a treacherous journey through alligator filled swamps, Ryan finds himself on a short road back to
crime and ends the film on the run, gun in hand. While this story sounds pretty rote, director Julian Goldberger's treatment of the material
is anything but standard. Trans is shot and edited like it has attention deficit disorder, with the camera constantly shifting focus and
darting from subject to subject. This wandering eye is matched with dialog and pacing that has a meandering, aimless rhythm. While the
methods may mimic the mentality of the characters it makes it difficult to really understand them. We get the sense of their patterns but
without really getting inside their heads. Still, the exploration of these marginal characters is worthwhile. When Ryan first escapes from the
detention center and stands, free, on a bridge over a swamp, the sense of elation he feels is definitely palpable. While the characters are often
opaque, moments like this one sprinkle the film and add a sense of humanity.
Still, the overall arc of the film is not always clear. Ryan never truly breaks free and winds up a fugitive. The ending is ambiguous and overly
symbolic, rather than the concrete realism of much of the rest of the film, and it leaves the audience wondering what the point of it all was.
The full-frame video has an unusually high amount of dirt and damage for such a recent film. Better care needs to be taken of the elements.
The transfer is murky and too contrasty. The film is obviously low budget and is mostly shot with a spontaneity that makes careful shot
construction difficult, but the transfer here isn't helping it any.
The film is available in Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks. The 2.0 track is muted and muddy. The 5.1 track is more dynamic, but has a
somewhat harsh, hissy sound.
The 13 track soundtrack for the film is available on the disc (It plays in DVD players, not CD players). The soundtrack, mostly featuring
songs by Fat Mama and the Trans World Orchestra, is moody and subtle, but the cuts on the soundtrack in this section lack oomph. They
work better in the film.
Julian Goldberger's Trans won several awards at film festivals and received a number of positive reviews. While worth a look for
fans of independent films about troubled, strange characters (and especially films like Gummo), it might leave a lot of viewers
scratching their heads.