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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Trans
Trans
Wellspring // Unrated // November 20, 2001
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted December 14, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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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 far.

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.

VIDEO:
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.

AUDIO:
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.

EXTRAS:
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.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
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.

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