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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 09.11.14] Spain thriller crime

The Dawn of Understanding Lingers
Away the Autumn of Puzzlement
Fennec on the Threshold

The Distance is the highbrow equivalent of the train wreck. You either avoid it completely or you watch it with morbid fascination until the last paramedic has picked-up the last bit of spleen. There is an unquenchable drive to see if it all means anything in the end. Meaning there is. Really. And it all makes sense in relation to itself and the ante-penultimate bit of narration in counter clockwise order (but only if you're seeing it on a Friday, in March, while the wind languorously blows outside the theatre).

You see this movie is an axolotl. At first it doesn't make sense, neither fish nor fowl and all that, but it's a pretty efficient creature with hidden depths.

The story is about an escape artist. Actually it's about an Austrian artist bought wholesale by a Russian oligarch hiring a trio of burglars to smuggle him out of the warehouse he's kept in. The introductory bad pun is a by-product. This movie, like most constructs of the human mind, is a patchwork of childish symbolism and atrocious paronomasia held together by spit and a balding anteater.

The same logic that makes a witch weigh the same as duck prevails here: to escape, the artist needs something called “The Distance.” Escape: be free of something. Escape: disappear from somewhere. The artist wants to disappear in the distance. Good joke; people laugh. All the nonsensical fluff around the main body of our cute little newt comes from that pit of hell inside the human psyche that makes people think that "my f'hair lady" is a good name for a hairdresser; the same place Freud used to build all his sexual obsession imagery.... Anyway it's not everyday you see Clotho, Atropos and Lachesis portrayed as overweight dwarfs with psychic powers so our faulty wiring when it comes to associating ideas has a good side.

The experience in itself is a whirlwind of amazement where the beauty of the scenery is a poignant counterpoint to the absurdity of the action.

One of the protagonists is a rusted bucket speaking in Japanese haiku which tells you everything you need to know about casting. The others speak Russian and German and whether you're either a polyglot or, like the director himself, don't speak any of these, you simply listen to the music without bothering with the meaning of the words. Watching it with subtitles is cheating.

And I do stress the word experience, this is like The Oregonian: the boundaries of the medium are left behind in the dust. There is one thing that takes it above the level of said person from Oregon, the cinematography is absolutely stunning, with obvious nods to cultural landmarks such as Tarkovsky's works and Kin Dza Dza. Everywhere there are cold, crumbling post industrial ruins in shades of blue and mossy gray, like an Old Navy jumper eaten slowly by the moths of neglect. The lighting kinda reminds of Mark Pellington's Lone (I’ll get around someday to write about this one) or for a more recent reference in surreal endeavours or Andrei Iskanov’s early works Nails and Visions of Suffering. No real human corpse here, yes a bit disappointing on that level, but you get lagomorph entrails. See! Not losing everything.

Apart from the funny newt stance, you can also see this as a scathing satire of modern art business. Selling yourself wholesale, on screen being a shithead with affection issues. You can't tell me that reading betime stories to a dead rabbit isn't the visible sign of an underlying affective disorder. The Artist wants others to help him escape a situation he brought upon himself. Conceited little prick.

But the most improbable part of all this is: There's Yoko Ono in her most endearing role in years, slaying the rampant dog of an outdated spirit of possession and allowing the homunculi to complete their mission. A better hunting trophy than the Beatles one might say, and an incredible asset to the cast.

At this point you are either sold or disgusted. In both cases my work here is done.

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Anne Honimous (6 years ago) Reply

Is this review supposed to make any sense? at all?


Marina (6 years ago) Reply

hehe. The reviewer IS French but I have a feeling the movie is simply obtuse. The trailer certainly suggested as much:


Jeff (6 years ago) Reply

The reviewer is 'the crystal ferret'...verbosely flatulent to the point of tl;dr! hehe.


guido_jenkins (6 years ago) Reply

hmmmmmmmm yeah... ok.... ????

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