Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From Mexico (and the future): SLEEP DEALER

Sleep Dealer plays again Wednesday, 10/22, at 600 North Michigan at 8:30pm.

In a few generations, migrant workers will no longer need to cross the U.S. border for menial jobs: They can perform them from home with the use of virtual reality. That’s one of the ideas floating around Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer, a Phildickian sci-fi story that approaches a high-tech future from the perspective of Mexican laborers. As a film, Sleep Dealer is sometimes flat and too indebted to the Hollywood storytelling it aims to subvert. But as a think piece, it’s clever and endlessly imaginative. During a warm-hearted Q-and-A after tonight’s screening, Rivera admitted to spending 11 years on the project from conception to final cut; he clearly made great use of the time by realizing his future world down to the smallest details. (The intravenous modem cables that connect Mexican workers to U.S. job sites also enable a new form of writing whereby users upload their thoughts like video files. We come to learn that the movie itself is one such “novel.”) One measure of the film’s success is that it’s able to touch on big, relevant subjects—U.S. corporations privatizing water sources in the Third World, the military outsourcing combat duty—without making them seem extraneous to its fictional universe. The may characters may seem a bit transparent as a result, but, as in some of Dick’s best novels, Sleep Dealer still works as a funhouse mirror of current events, with the characters serving to help us explore the variegated terrain. The second and final screening would count as a must-see if Rivera is in attendance again. Animated, honest, and blessed with seemingly bottomless optimism, Rivera has the potential to become the Wayne Coyne of American independent cinema.

A visual essay on Steve McQueen's HUNGER

There's still one more screening of Hunger (2008) at 8:30pm tonight. If you miss it, don't fret: IFC has plans to release the film Stateside in the very near future.

Possibly the most arresting film about prisoners since A Man Escaped (1956), Hunger invokes so many different types of images that it's hard to define director Steve McQueen's achievement in words. There's barely any dialogue in the film -- one crucial several-minutes-long scene excepted -- and as such it seems appropriate to express feelings about it using images. Here goes:


Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992): Three Studies for a Crucifixion - 2 (1962)


Imperial War Museum archives: Bergen-Belsen, Germany, 1945


Bill Viola (1951 - ): Ocean Without a Shore (2007)


A chamber in Her Majesty's Prison Maze, Northern Ireland



Still from Alan Clarke's Elephant (1989) -- Side A (companion film)


Still from Hunger (2008) -- Side B