Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

CAMERA OBSCURA

Dir/Scr: Hamlet Sarkissian; Prod: Tassos Kazinos; Exec Prod: Albertino Abela; DP: Haris Zambarloukos; Ed: Andrea Zondler; Music: Tigran Mansurian; Cast: Adam Trese, Ariadna Gil, Cully Fredricksen, VJ Foster, Kirk Ward.

35mm, 114 min., 2000 (USP)

Intentionally vile, Camera Obscura hearkens back to the sickening glut of bad-cop movies that dominated the Eighties. As intensely stylish as it is irritating, the film concentrates on a young photographer named Jimmy who lands a job shooting crime scenes for the police. Simultaneously intrigued and disgusted by his work, the enigmatic Jimmy starts to artistically manipulate the corpses and begins photographing his other subjects in deathlike positions. There's a certain brilliance to the concept, which pays off often enough, as when Jimmy repositions the remains of a gangland shootout to resemble Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. But director Hamlet Sarkissian insists on reminding us of the reality behind Jimmy's fanciful folly, inserting images of bloodied and disfigured bodies into the fray. At work, Jimmy cowers at the center of a tornado of corruption, surrounded by coke-snorting detectives and sour drug deals. At home, he alternates between violent tantrums and long periods of skulking, leaving his beautiful young wife (and the audience) grasping to understand what's the matter. As the film's constantly impressive visual audacity heats up, the narrative's novelty reverts back to its late-night cable roots, ending abruptly with the kind of jarring ending that first-time filmmakers fight to keep.

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