Thoroughly bizarre, but often surreal and enjoyable, this anthology film is comprised of three short stories revolving around an elusive abstract notion known as The Fourth Dimension. Each entry is opened with a sampling of the manifesto the three directors who participated in the project were given, i.e. “The film must be more truthful than anything else you have made,” “The protaganist must be in search of something crucial,” etc. The first entry, The Lotus Community Workshop focuses on a small-town self-help guru known as, and played by, Val Kilmer, as he dispenses his patented form of outlandish wisdom and awkward generosity to the denizens of his nowhere town. The second one, Chronoeye, a little more inscrutable, is about a renowned scientist who has locked himself away in seclusion in an attempt to travel through time and communicate with his late wife. The third one, The Fauns, centers around a group of youths as they plunder an Eastern European village in the hours before a massive flood overtakes it. While all three differ in mood, tone, and subject, several ideas overlap, and the film finishes with an oddball cohesive energy that defies geography, narrative, and our notions of style.
The trouble with anthology features, such as this, is that it is sort of a losing battle to begin with, by law of averages as seen by a moviegoing audience. If the films are consistently tepid and mediocre, the audience will judge the film as such, a tepid, mediocre film. On the other hand, if one film is fan-freaking-tastic and another is a bonafied dog turd, the dog’s stinkiness will override the quality of the gem, and will label the whole endeavor as a “meh” (think Four Rooms, with it’s whatever first half and absolutely kickass second half). This one manages to sidestep this pitfall for two reasons: for one, the projects deal with a singular thematic subject that actually presents a multitude of ways to engage with it, and secondly, all three are pretty damn interesting in their own way. The first one, as directed by Kids screenwriter and former Letterman interviewee Harmony Korine, is a hilariously oddball concoction of Val Kilmer delivering a rowdy speech to a lively, and, one suspects, unprofessional, group of extras mixed with Kilmer bumbling around on a quiet night biking around and playing video games with a young lady. Kilmer is more alive and engaging here than he’s been in years, once again reaching that delicious apex between charming and batshit loco, with his bloated middle-aged body and face adding a little more pathos and humor in equal spades. The second film is by a Russian filmmaker named Alexy Fedorchenko, and, with its bedraggled, older scientist as its subject, is the least energetic or entertaining, but still has an interesting visual sense and a number of memorable moments. I believe this is the film that tried, most sincerely, to philosophically tackle the subject of The Fourth Dimension, and, as such, is more Stalker in its heavily abstract story than a heavily emotional journey. The third film, by Jan Kwiecinski, is perhaps the most conventional, and is an excellent slow-burn portrayal of opportunistic, nihilistic youths who are faced with their amorality when losing one of their own and finding a left-behind victim doomed to die in the imminent flood. It is often funny and tragic at the same time, and its snarky subtext while portraying such dark material keeps the film at an awkward tone that evokes Solondz in how utterly watchable the car wreck is rendered. While the first and third stories were rather riveting, as opposed to the sporadically boring middle film, the whole project has an air of curious pretension that manages to stay provocative and engaging without wearing out its ideological nor emotional welcome.
Recommended to fans of Val Kilmer, Harmony Korine, or of low-key, philosophy-heavy independent film. Given the ambition behind the project, and Korine’s history, I expected something a little more boring and inscrutable than this; however, this is a very interesting little experiment that frequently achieves a mood and tone I don’t believe the individual films could’ve achieved on their own.
P.S. Val Kilmer recorded an out-there song for his segment entitled, “The Fourth Dimension.” It is autotune-heavy, amazing, and I must have it right now.