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Sugar

Pathfinder Home Entertainment // Unrated // February 7, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted January 15, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

Here's what the DVD case has to say:

"When a woman rents a miserably tiny room, she finds mountains of belongings from the previous tenant, "Anthony," as well as messages on the machine from the landlord, his mother, and a calm, threatening Irishman. As she cleans up the place, she begins to experience uncanny visions, nightmares, and the feeling that Anthony is much closer than she imagined. SUGAR is a terrifying, cockroach-eye view into the sweet surrender of hysteria and comforts of urban claustrophobia that will have you crawling out of your skin."

I don't know who they have writing copy over at Pathfinder Pictures, but the guy deserves an honorary degree in film studies for deciphering this flick in a way that implies narrative cohesion ... because I had no idea what was going on. And, including college, I've been studying film for about 20 years.

Sort of an "early David Lynch meets Stan Brakhage on a bad acid trip" experience, Sugar is what one of my critic pals often refers to as a "film school film," the sort of experimental, difficult, and intentionally esoteric nightmare of a movie that aspiring filmakers put together to show off their "weirdness" chops. (And when I say "nightmare," I don't mean it in a derisive way; I mean the movie actually feels like a bleak, disturbing nightmare that you can't wait to shake off.)

Packed with creative cinematography (which switches between B&W and color at the drop of a hat), a near-total lack of spoken dialogue, and enough visual shivers to keep the experimental folks entertained, Sugar isn't a drama, a horror film, or a traditional character study. I can't say I actually enjoyed the thing, but it's evidence of a trio of filmmakers (Patrick Jolley, Reynold Reynolds, and Samara Golden) who are shooting for something more than just another "foot in the door indie calling-card flick." Lord knows we already have more than enough $17,000 rom-coms floating through the film festivals.

Bottom Line: I might not have known what the hell was going on in Sugar, but I sure as hell was interested to find out. Still am, actually.

The DVD

Video: The film is presented in a full frame format. Video quality is pretty dark and grainy, but I'd say that was more a directorial choice than a lame transfer.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. You won't need much more than that.

Extras: All we're offered in the way of explanation is a small stills gallery, but that's cool. Filmmakers should have to "explain" their work the same way a magician should be required to divulge how his tricks are accomplished. Pathfinder also includes a trailer gallery highlighting titles like Gozu, Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies, Until the Night, Mascara, The Calamari Wrestler, Barocco, Ju-Rei, and a Bollywood film called Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

Final Thoughts

Just because I'm not normally a big fan of the narrative-deficient and visually wacko "experimental pieces," I'd by lying if I implied that there's no talent behind Sugar. If offbeat and somewhat difficult stuff like Eraserhead is your cup of tea, you should certainly consider Suagr worthy of at least a rental.

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