They don't call it artsy FARTSY for nothing. While film is indeed a perfect visual medium (much better than other forms like painting and sculpture), pretension can poison even the most optically arresting approach. Take Supranova, for example. Actually an American renaming of the Slavic effort For the End of Time from one woman moviemaking machine Ema Kugler, this work of weirdness as brazen attitude to spare, and it's no wonder. One look at the credits on this two hour excursion in ennui sees our filmmaker playing writer, director, editor, production designer, art designer, set decorator, costumer, sound editor, and special effects wizard. About the only thing she doesn't do is handle the soundtrack or cinematography. Oh, and she fails to make an interesting film as well. While you can definitely appreciate the thought and psychological symbolism employed, you quickly grow bored from all the mindless monotony. Kugler clearly wants to explore the big picture, to pit man vs. god in a no-holds barred surrealist competition. What she winds up giving us is a Charlie-horse in the aesthetic.
A man dies. His soul, illustrated as a woman covered in mud, sits on a rock nearby, wondering what to do. It seeks a purpose outside the body, though it also questions the connection between itself and its former owner. Then Pontius Pilate - of all historical people - shows up to discuss social conformity. As he waxes poetic, Jesus appears and begins the process of helping the soul discover her worth. Eventually, a guy imbedded in rock being tortured by a pendulum and a bunch of button down business executives show up to act stilted. And somewhere, in the Great Beyond, Salvador Dali is having lunch with Luis Bunuel and both of them are laughing...or crying...or throwing up from the self-righteous ridiculousness of this pained philosophical gobbledygook.
Oh my - this is always tough. Like beauty, art is often in the eye of the beholder, a necessary symbiotic mindset being compulsory in order to appreciate what the supposedly skilled craftsperson is providing. Many look at the works of Warhol and shout "fraud!". Others celebrate the most obtuse and obscure forms of modern expression as the very limits of contemporary classicism. It's all a matter of opinion - kind of like reviewing film. Therefore, this judgment comes with such a struggled caveat. In general, Supranova is a well-meaning, thoughtful and provocative exploration of human spirituality. It's enigmatic and mystery, dense without going overboard into narrative detail. It's strange and unusual, blatant in its archness and vague within its own often insular and complex arguments. It's also unmitigated junk, the kind of carefully considered craptrap that gets scholars soiling themselves while the dunderheaded masses "miss" the point completely. In 1991, E. Elias Merhige crafted something frightening similar with his brilliant Begotten. In the hands of Ms. Kugler, however, what took a focused 78 mesmerizing minutes has been dragged out to two hours, and the results are ridiculously dull.
It's not just the fact that little if nothing happens during the run time. My Dinner with Andre had two guys talking for its entire length and yet few would call it inert. But the problem with Supranova (the original For the End of Time is SO much better) is that it doesn't have a novel or inventive take on the material it plans on dissecting. Okay...if we have a soul, what is its purpose post-life, and what does it offer while it is a part of us? Have we really not heard - and more importantly, thought - about this before. Heck, this year's masterful Never Let Me Go addressed the subject in a dystopian future Britain where clones attend private boarding schools before heading off to be harvested for their organs. It's more than just the ideas. It's how they are explored and explained that are important. Sitting around while punk queen Lydia Lunch explains shit to you is not the best way to be entertained. Besides, there are better ways to make such salient statements.
But Supranova isn't interested in amusing us. You can feel the filmmaker laying down the creative challenge gauntlet almost from the beginning. The situations and set-ups beg to be misconstrued and mocked. Allusions and allegorical elements are often so obvious (JESUS!?!?) that conclusions are drawn before the narration guides us in other directions. Again, one can excuse a lack of action if the concepts central to the narrative are equally kinetic. But Supranova assumes a level of cosmic interest that is often sadly absent. Even worse, the self-righteousness present pisses all over the average viewer's attention span. Indeed, Cinema Epoch even pushes things a bit by advertising the film as the "future cult masterpiece" everyone will be talking about. Of course, that's a matter of speculation, and it's conjecture of the most specious kind. No one will argue that Ms. Kugler is infused with ideas far outside the box. She clearly wants to explore more than standard RomCom stupidity or action movie mediocrity. But Supranova suffers from its own preposterous pretensions. Had it narrowed its focus, we'd be fine. Instead, by embracing the big picture, it grows unwieldy and ultimately grating.
Since Kugler is described as a video artist, it's not surprising to discover that Supranova was shot digitally and then given one of those sometimes wonky filmic conversions in post. The 1.78:1 transfer is colorful and clean, but there is a bit of detail lacking here and there. Similarly, tape technology cannot equal the amount of optical polish celluloid can provide. As a result, certain shots have a weird, washed out feel.
It's Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and it's decent enough. Lunch comes across loud and clear and the ambient noises/soundtrack elements are nicely balanced. Not much else to say, really.
Apparently, the only added content this "masterpiece" requires is a text only bio of the filmmaker, as well as a short slideshow stills gallery. Toss in the standard corporate come-on for other releases and you have a package as paltry as the entertainment value inherent in the feature presented.
As trying as it is on one's patience, Supranova is not like the Supreme Court definition of pornography. It does have some redeeming social and artistic worth. That it's almost impossible to see without a healthy dose of LSD, some strong anti-depressants, or an Goth like obsession with the lyrics to your favorite industrial band is only the fault of the message receiver, not the messenger, right? In any case, there is enough here to avoid a suggestion to Skip It. However, the approach is so arcane and awkward that finding it may be more trouble than a Recommended rating. Therefore, a score of Rent It will be awarded, suggesting that there may be those of you out there with enough aesthetic patience to put up with what Ms. Kugler is dishing out. To them, this may indeed be a new cult phenom. To the rest of us, however, it will simply be a royal waste of time.
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