Tall tales and true

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

es­tab­lished that Jun is search­ing for an un­cle, who has promised him work. Mat­ters are fur­ther clar­i­fied when Roberto finds a de­liv­ery boy who can act as an in­ter­preter.

I found Chi­nese Take-Away end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing — not in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ques­tions be­ing an­swered or mys­ter­ies re­solved but as an il­lu­mi­na­tion of the char­ac­ters’ com­mon hu­man­ity. The per­for­mances are pleas­ingly un­der­stated and the cam­er­a­work (by Rolo Palpeirio) in­vests this elu­sive and fan­ci­ful tale with a pow­er­ful sense of im­me­di­acy. Cows may fall from the sky, but we have no doubt that Roberto’s world is real. LOVE is a sci­ence fic­tion thriller writ­ten and di­rected by Wil­liam Eubank, a 27-year-old US film­maker, about an as­tro­naut stranded above the Earth in a space sta­tion. Eubank shot the film him­self and con­structed the prin­ci­pal set from bits and pieces in the back yard of his par­ents’ house. The sound­track is pro­vided by su­per­group An­gels & Air­waves, whose lead gui­tarist, Tom DeLonge (for­merly of the group Blink-182), is one of the pro­duc­ers. The re­sult is a tech­ni­cal tour de force, much of it daz­zlingly beau­ti­ful. I have seen Love twice and can­not re­mem­ber a film in re­cent times that has made a deeper ini­tial im­pres­sion on me, both for its vi­su­als and what I took to be the scale and pro­fun­dity of its ideas.

So is there a prob­lem? It’s just that I have no clear idea of what the film is about. Too much of it is baf­fling. I had a sim­i­lar prob­lem with Ter­rence Mal­ick’s The Tree of Life, in which the for­tunes of a typ­i­cal subur­ban fam­ily were linked to the birth of the cos­mos. We watched stars form­ing, the ori­gins of life it­self. Like Mal­ick, Eubank looks at the ul­ti­mate ques­tion of ex­is­tence, our place in the uni­verse, and con­cludes — I hope I am not over­sim­pli­fy­ing — that ev­ery­thing de­pends on our con­nect­ed­ness with other peo­ple. This may be so, though the script’s at­tempts at philosophis­ing of­ten seem trite and are never clearly re­lated to the story on the screen.

This is in two parts. We be­gin with scenes of car­nage dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War (again skil­fully re-cre­ated). An of­fi­cer is dis­patched to in­ves­ti­gate a mys­te­ri­ous man-made ob­ject dis­cov­ered ‘‘ some­where east of the Colorado basin’’. Two hun­dred years on and we pick up the story of Lee Miller (Gun­ner Wright), a US as­tro­naut cho­sen to re­visit an aban­doned space sta­tion. Not long into his mis­sion Lee loses contact with Earth (‘‘Hous­ton, did you pick up that ra­dio in­ter­fer­ence?’’) and re­signs him­self to the prospect of a lonely death.

There are re­minders of Moon, Apollo 13 and, es­pe­cially, 2001: A Space Odyssey — those ver­tig­i­nous, ro­tat­ing in­te­ri­ors, the re­flec­tions in the as­tro­naut’s hel­met, the on­board ex­er­cise rou­tines, the re­layed mes­sages from fam­ily, the or­nate pe­riod man­sion where Lee finds him­self in the clos­ing scenes, and the recorded mes­sage, ‘‘ Some things will for­ever re­main a mys­tery’’, re­call­ing the fi­nal words of Kubrick’s film. Love of­fers much to think about and even more to puz­zle over. What­ever we make of it now, it is prob­a­bly des­tined for cult sta­tus and, who knows, in years to come may be hailed as a mas­ter­piece.

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