8 out of 10 Stars - Review by Nikola Gocić
30 Jun 2017
Pop Meets the Void (William Cusick, 2015)
☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
The sophomore feature for William Cusick (Welcome to Nowhere) sees him as a keen multi-hyphenate - a writer, director, editor, co-producer, co-composer and star of the (fragmented and non-linear) story about a struggling artist. While the premise is certainly not an original one, it is the unique execution that elevates the film above its counterparts. Four narrative threads, one of them being highly abstract, are tightly interwoven into a form- and genre-defying blend of deadpan dramedy, psychological fantasy and fourth-wall-breaking pseudo-documentary.
In the mind-bending prologue, we are introduced to a mysterious figure (Nick Bixby) trapped in a white, decrepit room surrounded by hundreds of glassy, floating octahedrons. Considering the symbolic meaning of the said Platonic solid, he (or rather, it?) could be the embodiment of our downbeat hero's psyche, his spiritual self or some sort of inner (and as we later find out, suicidal) deity. Whatever the case may be, this entity's sequences serve as the 'glue' that holds together dreams and/or (alternative) realities of the protagonist, Walter. But the thing is, it's hard to discern which of his three versions is 'the original'.
The best guess would be that the bearded, unkempt introvert whose demos are mostly private and self-confidence constantly undermined by the others is the one imagining his superstar DJ persona ready to retire from the showbiz, as well as his other, down-to-earth alter ego that is a white-collar worker stuck on a dead-end job and with a henpecking wife. Oft-imbued with bitter (self-)irony, their lines reflect the issues which Cusick as an independent filmmaker is, without any doubt, faced with and those autobiographical notes ring very true (especially if the viewer is a like-minded creative with gentle soul).
Speaking of notes, the score which complements the trippy visuals has a cool and breezy, or as Walter puts it, 'folky kinda krautrocky' feel to it that sets the right emotional tone. Slightly melancholic, it wonderfully encapsulates 'conflicting concepts of reality' envisioned as an artificial, yet fascinating mélange of live-action and CGI animation (kudos to both VFX expert Jonathan Weiss and cinematographer Bart Cortright). The surreal, distorted imagery of Walter's fancy is a step forward compared to Cusick's more experimental debut, so let's hope he provides us with more gleaming, 'acidic' eye-candy in the future.