LoveSeptember 8, 2012
To imagine that a great cinematographer should make a great director is rather like saying a first violin should make a great conductor. Jack Cardiff had a long career as a leading cinematographer, but what did he leave us as a director? The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) – one of the most pretentious, and plainly ridiculous, movies of all time.
This film, which almost stopped Marianne Faithfull’s career in its tracks, was panned in the English-speaking world and acclaimed as a masterpiece in France. Quel horreur!
There’s bound to be a few reviewers that will hail Wlliam Eubank’s debut feature, Love, as a masterpiece, but it is at best, a space oddity.
Eubank, who did virtually everything in this low budget, independent production, is one of America’s most promising young cinematographers, and his skills are on prominent display in Love. The film is beautifully shot and designed. On a shoestring, Eubank has given us a visually arresting spectacle that looks like it cost millions.
The problem lies with the story, which is all-but-incomprehensible. The movie begins in the American civil war, with Confederate soldier, Captain Lee Briggs (Bradley Horne), being sent off while his comrades fight a last ditch battle. Typically, these battle scenes have the beauty of a neo-classical etching.
We cut to a space station in the year 2039, in which an American astronaut, Captain Lee Miller (Gunnar Wright), is circling the earth. When his lines of radio communication are suddenly and inexplicably cut off, Lee begins to suffer from the effects of severe isolation. He talks to himself, he looks at photos of previous residents of the space ship, he invents companions, and eventually goes feral.
Every so often our view of Lee’s lonely musing is interrupted by an interview with one of a series of unknown, average blokes who muse on the subjects of life and love. It’s not clear why this is happening until the last ten minutes of the film, and even then it’s not clear.
When Lee finds Lee Briggs’s journal from 1865 stowed in the space ship – don’t ask why – the two stories start to dovetail in a loose way. Buried in all this is a piece of cosmic wisdom about the meaning of love and the need for human communication. It is, however, more obscure than a Zen koan.
Eubank borrows freely – perhaps too freely – from science fiction classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972 & 2002), The Fountain (2006), and probably a few others. At times one wonders if the film is intended as a homage to Stanley Kubrick, a postmodern pastiche, or simply a rip-off.
The conclusion attempts to explain some of the puzzles, but raises just as many new questions. Ultimately it may be best to view this film as an extended video clip – an interpretation that gains credibility when we learn the US$500,000 that paid for this project came from Tom DeLonge, leader of the rock band, Angels & Airwaves. Not only does the band provide the music for the soundtrack, it is credited as producer.
Maybe someone who knows more about Angels & Airwaves, could discern hidden relationships between Love and the band’s preoccupations. As a complete novice, I thought the music seemed blandly similar to a lot of mainstream American rock, while the movie wanders off on some very strange pathways.
In other words, Angels & Airwaves seems like a viable commercial proposition, while Love is the arty indulgence one can afford when the money is safely in the bank. The film will have to rely heavily on its good looks to avoid disappearing into the unknown vastness of space.
Love, USA, rated M, 84 mins
Published by the Australian Financial Review, September 08, 2012