Currently Untitled (Adam Cooley, 2010)
Every time I review a short, I end up putting in a statement somewhere about how I don’t normally review shorts. So I figure I might as well get it out of the way in the first sentence this time. But every once in a while either I love/hate one enough that I’d feel wrong not telling as many people as possible to see/avoid it, or I come across one that, while not inspiring quite that level of emotion, is the work of a director who strikes me as being not nearly as well-known as s/he should be. I’m a DIY musician myself, and I know maybe more than the average bear that word-of-mouth publicity is a powerful tool. Currently Untitled, the latest-as-I-write-this film by maverick lensman Adam Cooley, falls into the second category easily.
This is where, in most reviews, I give a plot synopsis. That’s impossible with Currently Untitled. This is a movie about director’s block, which is like writer’s block, but it involves cameras. Cooley can’t come up with an idea for his next movie. Given that, why not make a movie about director’s block? But this brief synopsis doesn’t tell you a blessed thing about this flick; it is aggressively non-commercial, filmed in such a way as to make the viewer hate it. (This fits in with the recurring theme of Cooley’s own insecurity. I have no idea how fact-based this flick is, but if Cooley is to be believed, the entire production crew on his previous movie told him they never wanted to work with him again before he started shooting this one, and his girlfriend left him while he was making this one. Perhaps the insecurity is deserved.) I don’t think either Jon Jost or Monte Hellman, both of whom are obvious influences on Cooley, ever intentionally set out to make a non-commercial film; I think the non-commercial aspects of their movies arise naturally from their styles of filmmaking. Cooley, on the other hand, is actively thumbing his nose at the system in Currently Untitled. The sound mixing is a nightmare, the cinematography jumps from overexposure to underexposure (sometimes in the same scene), the plot is nonexistent, the acting is either painfully amateur or blindingly brilliant (I can’t tell which, and that in itself is telling).
Given that this is a movie that is daring you—hell, begging you—to hate it, well, if I had fallen totally in love with it it wouldn’t have done its job. Five minutes in (and I will say that forty-two minutes was just about the correct length for this experiment) I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to watch the whole thing all the way through. I did, however, and I found it witty, amusing, and thought-provoking. Your mileage may vary widely, and to say this is not a movie for everyone would be understating the case something fierce—but you won’t know unless you try, and I would strongly recommend trying. ***
The full film, streamable on vimeo.