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Tribeca 2012: The Fourth Dimension

The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18th to April 29th. Jeff Hart and Jeremiah White are there and will be seeing a shitload of movies.

When you’re watching a collection of short films that each run roughly 30-40 minutes, one rotten apple can ruin the whole bunch. They're too long to just shake off if you really don’t like one, and that’s inevitably going to alter your perception of the others since they come in such quick succession. And that’s what happened to me in The Fourth Dimension, a collection of three short films curated by Eddy Moretti, one of the men behind the current Vice empire and the director of the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad. The films are completely independent and I didn't pick up on any meaningful connections between them (fourth dimensionally or otherwise), but for better or worse they’re stuck together.

“The Lotus Community Workshop,” directed by Harmony Korine, stars Val Kilmer as Val Kilmer, immediately making it the most noteworthy of the three. It’s never definitively stated whether he’s playing some alternate universe version of the actor Val Kilmer, or just a character that shares the name. Someone recognizes him from "the movies," but I don't consider that conclusive at all.

Anyway, this Val Kilmer is a new age-y motivational speaker who slings his faux-philosophy at a roller skating rink. Scenes of him speaking are intercut with scenes of his relatively mundane personal life, in which he rides a bicycle, plays video games and hangs out with a much younger woman. It's a very thin slice of life, and there’s really no drama or story.

Kilmer's spewing of ridiculous and meaningless slogans is funny, but it feels like an audition for a bit part in a Will Ferrell movie. There’s just no meat there. The roller skating rink does prove to be a visually interesting setting, and the scenes with his girlfriend effectively capture the feeling of a lazy post-work wind down. Overall, it’s inessential but enjoyable.

After Val Kilmer as Val Kilmer, I was ready for something more substantial to sink my teeth into, and that’s when things fell apart. The next film, Alexey Fedorchenko’s “Chronoeye,” tells the story of a curmudgeonly Russian scientist who invents a machine that allows him to view historic events on a computer monitor from the perspective of a random person who was there. All he does is type in a date and location and suddenly he's seeing the world through someone else's eyes. The lack of control over whose eyes frustrates him, but he’s able to see the manger in Bethlehem through baby Jesus’ eyes on the first try, so he’s kind of being a baby about the whole thing.

This impossible machine has a multitude of applications (especially from a screenwriting perspective), but the scientist only uses it like 4 times before he gets fed up. “Chronoeye” isn't really about the machine that I assume it takes its name from. It's about not obsessing over the past (or future), and instead loosening up and dancing with your annoying neighbor. It's a dry bore that seems to have no clue just how silly it is.

I was in a pretty sour mood at this point. Jan Kwiecinski’s “Fawns” lets the viewer tag along with a group of young punks who rampage through a small town deserted in anticipation of a flood. The world of “Fawns” is alive with color, but the empty buildings and streets create a haunting stillness. Discord in the group is revealed with a lot of meaningful looks and a small amount of dialogue. It's an admirable little film, and easily this collection's most complete one. It achieves some of the effect it’s going for, but the drama amongst the kids is never really engaging. The execution just doesn’t quite realize the concept’s full potential. It brought me back up a bit after “Chronoeye,” but not enough to leave the theater feeling good.

VERDICT: Skip it, unless you can just skip “Chronoeye.”

Yup, for real.

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